Written by Kevin McCluskie
It’s been 14 months since Ferencvaros last visited Glasgow and humbled Celtic, knocking the Hoops out of the Champions League at the Second Qualifying Round and heralding the beginning of the end for Neil Lennon as Celtic manager.
On Tuesday afternoon Peter Stöger will take his charges back to Glasgow intent on delivering another famous success on Scottish soil.
When Ferencvaros last visited Celtic Park the then two-in-a-row Hungarian Champions were a largely unknown and underestimated quantity to the large majority of the watching Scottish and UK public. By the time the match was over, the names of David Siger, Tokmac Nguen, and Denes Dibusz were on the lips of football fans across Glasgow and beyond. 14 months on from that famous night at an empty and silent Celtic Park, Ferencvaros will return to Glasgow with a new man at the helm but the same desire to derail Celtic’s European ambitions while simultaneously reigniting their own Europa League campaign.
Ferencvaros Europa League campaign has so far been one of narrow misfortunes and close run disappointments.
Bayer Leverkusen just about deserved the three points on matchday one, however a strong performance from Dibusz was almost enough to secure an away point for Fradi who were ultimately undone by a rare defensive lapse.
On matchday two, Fradi proved to be a more than equal match for Real Betis for long spells before the Spaniards finally turned to screw and left the Groupama Arena with a flattering 3-1 victory leaving Fradi pointless after two games.
Tuesday night’s opponents, Celtic, are in a similar predicament having let slip a 2-0 lead in Betis, eventually going down 4-3, before being hammered 4-0 at Celtic Park by Leverkusen on matchday two. With all to play for in the first of a double-header between the two clubs, what can Ferencvaros expect from Celtic this time around?
THE POSTECOGLOU REVOLUTION
Celtic endured their worst season in a decade last term, ending the campaign trophy-less, manager- less after Neil Lennon’s departure in February, and with a squad in need of a major overhaul.
After a lengthy and public courting of Eddie Howe resulted in the Englishman turning Celtic down at the last minute, Australian Ange Postecoglou was handed the task of reviving Celtic’s fortunes.
Star players Odsonne Edouard, Kris Ajer, and Ryan Christie departed along with long-serving captain Scott Brown and numerous other members of the first team squad as Postecoglou brought in no less than 12 new additions. The Celtic side will take to the field on Tuesday will therefore bear little resemblance to the one that Fradi dispatched last August.
In their place have come the exciting attacking trio of Japanese forward Kyogo Furuhashi, Portuguese winger Jota, and the Israeli Liel Abada; defenders Carl Starfelt, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and Josip Juranovic have joined the ranks at the back along with England goalkeeper Joe Hart; and the midfield has been bolstered by the arrival of James McCarthy from Crystal Palace.
Along with the new signings, Postecoglou has brought with him a new style of play introducing inverted full backs to the Celtic set-up with mixed results so far. The Australian’s open and attack- minded philosophy has left Celtic more open at the back resulting in three consecutive away league defeats at the start of the campaign; a slight change in tactics recently has, however, resulted in two away wins on the spin at Aberdeen and Motherwell.
At home, Celtic have wracked up heavy victories against St. Mirren and Dundee and will be looking to put Ferencvaros to the sword on Tuesday afternoon.
While Celtic will be a different side to the one that Fradi beat last season, the Ferencvaros side that will start the game the game on Tuesday will also feature a number of new faces as well as a new manager with Peter Stöger having taken over from Serhij Rebrov.
The defence has been bolstered by the arrivals of Sammy Mmaee and Henry Wingo; Stjepan Loncar and Kristoffer Zachariassen have reinforced the midfield adding grit and additional goal threat; while Ryan Mmaee, younger brother of Sammy, has been a revelation upfront since signing from AEL Limassol scoring 11 goals in 17 games across all competitions.
The pace and direct running of the front three of Uzuni, Tokmac, and Ryan Mmaee have the potential to stretch the Celtic defence and be potential match winners for Ferencvaros, while Aissa Laidouni can be the creative key to unlock the defence.
However, for Ferencvaros to prevail on Tuesday they will have to overcome one obstacle they avoided last season – the vociferous and famed Celtic support. Silence them early and they could turn Celtic Park shades of Zöld es Feher for the second year running.