Celtic Concerned Over Helsinki Pitch
You never know what sort of pitch you will get when you travel overseas.
Celtic will contest the second leg of their Champions League third qualifier on HJK Helsinki's artificial pitch. Neil Lennon's side take a 2-1 lead to Finland with goalkeeper Fraser Forster expressing concerns about the surface, saying it would probably feel "like you're diving on a car park." HJK Helsinki's assistant manager Juho Rantala moved to quash any suggestion that his side will have an advantage.He said: "The pitch cannot be an excuse, it cannot be about the pitch. It is not rock hard like the old plastic pitches. They changed it a year ago to a new and better one. It is a bit different with regards defending because it is easier to tackle on grass. But I have always said that if you know how to play football then you can pass the ball on our pitch. We would like to play on a surface like Celtic Park every week but because of the climate in Finland we have to have an artificial pitch."Many of the games played by teams in the Scottish Women's Premier League are played on artificial pitches without to many injuries or mishaps befalling the players. Rantala believes that Celtic should concentrate their efforts on protecting the slender lead they will bring with them to Finland. He went on: "One goal for us and they are out, that is one thing that they may have on their minds. So it might be a mental game. But we are happy that the tie is still alive, we defended stubbornly in the first game but Celtic are still the favourites. They are a famous European club playing against a small Finnish team whose pedigree is not the best. But we need to be confident at 2-1. We have to believe we have a chance and we know we can play better than we did at Celtic Park - and we know we will have to. So we hope we can cause an upset and it will be a big shock if we get through."
Saturday saw Celtic win 1-0 over Aberdeen in the SPL opener at Parkhead, when a mistake from Dons keeper Jamie Langfield presented Kris Commons the winner. Lennon claimed his players needed "plenty of rest before Wednesday". He said: "They have only really had a day and a half to recover after the first game against Helsinki and they put a lot into that game. We looked at the stats on Friday and the amount of work they put in was tremendous. So there was a wee bit of hangover from that and I totally understand it."Lennon will be able to consider defender Charlie Mulgrew who will return from suspension while winger James Forrest should be fit again after a groin strain. Skipper Scott Brown, who missed the Dons game, may have to take an injection in his hip to play. Georgios Samaras took a boot in the face against Aberdeen which led to him going off early in the second-half but he should be fit for the game with Helsinki. Lennon added: "They are good players and important players. Brown's drive and energy, Forrest's pace and Mulgrew brings a calmness and a balance to the back four. We just looked a little short going forward. We will get better, we will improve."
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