GLASGOW // Celtic's engagement with the loftiest regions of the European game is suffering from frostbite, and is in danger of freezing over against a distinctly icy AaB Aalborg in Denmark. The Scottish champions hope to come in from the cold on the penultimate week of this season's Champions League group stages but in the bleak midwinter, could be left without even the comfort blanket of Uefa Cup participation.
As is common at such a juncture of this tournament, Gordon Strachan's side face a number of nagging concerns. Making off with three points from Aalborg would ensure them a place in the Uefa Cup's knockout phase in February, while longing for a similar outcome in favour of Manchester United at Villarreal to maintain an interest in the main tournament. Wins for Celtic and United would allow the Scottish champions to consider the possibility of reaching the last 16 of the Champions League for the third successive season at the expense of Villarreal with the Spanish side due at Celtic Park on Dec 10.
Such a forecast seems foolhardy when studying Celtic's misfortunes outside of Glasgow in this competition. Celtic have lifted a nightmarish one point from 17 away games in the Champions League, that coming at Barcelona of all places four years ago, and avoiding defeat at Aalborg would seem like an achievement of some magnitude. "I think every run has to finish at some point," said Celtic's German defender Andreas Hinkel yesterday in emitting some bullish tones.
But with home advantage, the Danish side can leave Celtic reeling tonight. email@example.com