Europa League Preview: can Celtic keep their unbeaten run going?

Celtic vs Lazio:

Celtic face their toughest test so far in this year’s Europa League as they host Italian side Lazio. Neil Lennon will be relatively happy with his side’s performances so far, with a draw away at Rennes and a comfortable home win against Cluj being enough for them to sit at the top of the group.

Last years treble winners now find themselves needing a good result on Thursday, as a double header against the Italians in the coming weeks could decide the fate of their European ambitions this season in a very competitive group.

Domestically, Celtic have not looked as ruthless as last year, with a loss to Livingston and a draw at Hibs leaving them tied at the top of the Scottish Premiership alongside Rangers. They did, however, put six goals past Ross County on Saturday whilst Lazio were held to a 3-3 draw at home against Atalanta.

The Italian side will be no pushovers. Currently sitting on 3 points alongside Cluj, Lazio also need a decent run of wins to secure their place in the last 16 of the competition. Dangerman Ciro Immobile will pose a threat to the Celtic defence as he usually does with his opponents, already netting double figures this season in all competitions. Lazio also have an impressive midfield balance with Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Ex-Liverpool players, Luis Alberto and Lucas Leiva, the latter winning the club’s Player Of the Season award last year.

Celtic head coach Neil Lennon confirmed on Wednesday that Olivier Ntcham is still unfit, but Tom Rogic and Ryan Christie should both be a part of the matchday squad, a real boost for Celtic as Christie has been one of their most impressive and consistent performers so far this campaign.


Porto vs Rangers:

Credit – Heather Miller

Rangers will look to put Sunday’s frustrating draw at Hearts behind them when they take on European giants Porto in Thurday’s early kick off in Portugal.

Steven Gerrard’s side failed to take advantage of results around them two weeks ago, as they slipped to late defeat against Young Boys in Switzerland, a game they felt they could have won. After an impressive 1-0 win at home to Feyenoord in game week 1, The Gers could have put themselves top of the group with a win in Switzerland but instead join the rest of the teams on 3 points.

Rangers find themselves mixed with an equally hard group as they did last year, when they failed to reach the knockout stage. Making qualification to the last 16 a huge challenge for head coach Steven Gerrard, who has made his side a more competitive force in Europe after a long absence.

Sunday’s draw at Tynecastle will have dampened the mood a little going into the showdown as they now have arch-rivals Celtic for company at the top of the Premiership, but Gerrard will be hoping for a big response on against the 2004 Champions League winners.

Porto oftenfind themselves amongst the worlds best in the Champions League but an unusually poor domestic campaign by their incredibly high standards resulted in them taking a step down into the Europa League group stages.

They started off well in week 1 with a home win over Young Boys but slumped to defeat against Feyenoord in game week 2 which left them on three points.

Porto were in cup action on the weekend with a comfortable 5-0 win over Coimbroes and currently sit 3rd in the Portuguese league.

Rangers’ only notable absentee from the match tonight is midfielder Ryan Jack, who sustained a knee injury two weeks ago against Young Boys. The Scot also put pen to paper this week to commit his future to the Glasgow side, which will no doubt have raised spirits inside the changing room.

For the home side, midfielder Sergio Oliviera remains on the side-lines but their strike-partnership of Ze Luis and Moussa Marega will be fit and firing, having contributed to 11 goals so far this season respectively.


Gerrard calls for more severe punishments after Rodgers burglary


Rangers manager Steven Gerrard says people who break into homes need to be given 15 year sentences in prison.

This is in response to Brendan Rodgers Glasgow house being burgled in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Gerrard was shocked at the news of his ex-Old Firm rival’s house and has calls for the sentences to increased from three years to 10 or 15.

The Liverpool legend is understandably passionate about the subject after he suffered a similarly horrific ordeal when his Merseyside home was burgled 12 years ago. The men responsible for this particular break in were jailed, but evidently in Gerrard’s opinion, not for long enough.

The Leicester manager’s wife Charlotte Searle and daughter were forced to barricade themselves into the bathroom as the intruders broke in and stole a number of Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic winners medals. He has said that despite this horrible experience, he will not let it spoil the good memories he has of living in Scotland.

Even when Rodgers was appointed as the Leicester manager and moved south, Mrs Searle had continued to live in East Dunbartonshire with her daughter while the school term finishes.

Rodgers has said that it is obviously unacceptable from those responsible, the main thing is that his family are unharmed.


Hibs showing great “intensity and drive” says Heckingbottom

Paul Heckingbottom

Paul Heckingbottom suffered his first defeat as Hibernian manager against Celtic last weekend (Credit: Luke Barry)

Hibernian manager Paul Heckingbottom has praised his side’s “intensity and drive” as they look to seal a sixth place spot in the Scottish Premiership.

Heckingbottom has won three of his first four games in charge at Easter Road, but lost to Celtic last weekend 2-0 in the quarter-final of the Scottish Cup.

Hibs face Rangers tonight in the league, and the manager admitted that Steven Gerrard’s side could have an advantage as they have a larger squad to work with.

“They’ve been good, hit a lot of form now [and] scoring goals,” Heckingbottom said.

“I can’t imagine Steven changing too much, but he does have the capabilities to do that if he wants with the squad he’s got and the players he’s got competing for each position but I don’t think there’ll be too much different in the set-up and how he approaches the game.

“We’re struggling with injuries and suspensions where we don’t have the personnel to rotate the squad without significantly weakening the team.”

Hibs are currently sixth in the league, three points behind neighbours Hearts but three points clear of St Johnstone.

Heckingbottom revealed that remaining in the top six is now the aim for the rest of the season.

He added: “That’s our focus [and]that’s what our focus has been.

“We’ve been chasing, and we said that before the last away game that all of a sudden we are now in the top six with teams chasing us, we earned the right to be in the driving seat if you like, get the sixth spot.

“The players fought and fought and fought and managed to pull away and get another three points, so it’s that sort of intensity and drive we want to have between now and the end of the season.

“You’ve got to fight for it, whoever does get in that top six will deserve it and we want to make sure that it’s us.”

Heckingbottom also praised the efforts his squad has made to adapt to his tactics, with everyone at the club “on the same page” and “searching for the same answers.”

He said: “The players have responded really well [to my way of working].

“We earned the right to be in the driving seat if you like, [to] get the sixth spot.”

“I spoke to them again in training and whatever ideas I have they’ll do it and when they’re trying and giving everything I back them 100%.

“We know we are in progress, we know where we are in the league in terms of standings, size of clubs, but we have to use that to our advantage and be a team that enjoys playing against the so-called bigger clubs, and also enjoying having the status of a big club ourselves when other teams come to town.

“So we know where we are, we’ve really enjoyed the start but we know we’ve got to keep improving.”

It all gets underway at Easter Road from 7:45pm and the match is live on BT Sport.

Stevenson reveals “excitement” at working under 10th Hibs boss

Lewis Stevenson

Lewis Stevenson has spent 14 years at the club (Credit: David Ronney)

Hibernian left-back Lewis Stevenson says it’s a clean slate for himself as he works under his 10th boss, Paul Heckingbottom, as he looks to impress his new manager.

The 31-year-old made his debut for the Edinburgh club in 2005 and is currently the longest serving player at the club.

However, he admitted he feels there is still the same nerves when a new boss is appointed.

He said: “Every time a new manager is appointed there is the same nerves and apprehension, and perhaps the same excitement as well. I have learnt something new from everyone who’s managed at Hibs, I don’t think it matters how old you are at all.

“With Paul coming all the way from England, of course the lads feel like they have a point to prove. But as soon as he came in it was clear he knew all about us so that helped put our minds at ease.”

The clubs perfect record under Heckingbottom came to an end in their quarter-final clash with Celtic at Easter Road on Saturday.

Stevenson spoke of the positives and negatives the side took from their defeat against the reigning champions.

He added: “There are things we did very well on Saturday and things we didn’t do so well, but we know what we need to focus on. If we can get rid of the negatives then that will stand us in good stead for the future.”

However, things are not about to get any easier for Easter Road side as they host Steven Gerrard’s Rangers on Friday night.

Lewis Stevenson

Hibernian were knocked out the Scottish Cup last weekend in a 2-0 home defeat to Celtic (Credit: David Ronney)

According to the veteran full back, the games against the bigger teams in Scotland are the ones he relishes most.

He said: “These are the games you really want to play in, when it’s a full house. Big crowds usually mean a higher tempo and a higher intensity of game. We’re a more physical side now and we’ll need all our stamina on Friday night.

“We’re looking at them as a team and we’re well aware how good a side they are from playing them at Ibrox earlier on in the season. But if we implement our game plan then we know we’ve got a very good chance to come away with all the points.”

Hibs are currently in sixth place, and only three points off rivals Hearts. With a European spot not yet out of sight, Stevenson spoke of the sides desire to push on and finish as high in the table as possible.

“We’re trying not to focus too much on how the table looks and just take each game that comes to us. We’ve got five games before the split and we’ll try to get three or four wins and see where that leaves us.”

Sectarianism: A continuous plague in Scottish football


Celtic and Rangers fans at Parkhead (Credit: PaulVIF)

Pie, bovril and sectarianism. A typical day out for some Scottish football fans but the latter, a trend that should have been left well in the past.

In the last few weeks there have been numerous cases of sectarian abuse directed at those on the pitch and on the touch-line.

Kilmarnock manager, Steve Clarke, came out last week to say that he was delighted Chelsea signed him as a young player and took him away from the west coast. He went on to say that he was relieved his children did not have to grow up with such rampant hatred in England.

The source? A majority believe supporters of Glasgow clubs, Celtic and Rangers are at the heart of the ongoing issues.

For these two clubs religion remains a part of the club’s identity for many fans, despite their board’s efforts to distance themselves from the problem. Something which is not replicated in the English scene.

Clarke urged the Scottish FA to step up their efforts in tackling the issue saying: “Things can be done, Will [it] be done is probably much more difficult to address.”

The Scottish FA chief executive, Ian Maxwell, responded in a statement: “The Scottish FA condemns in the strongest possible terms the spate of incidents this season involving unacceptable conduct in Scottish football.”

More recently, Celtic supporters were criticised for posting a video on Twitter of fans in a pub singing about the IRA and ex-Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers.

WARNING: Some viewers may find the following video offensive or distressing.

A survey in 2017 of Scottish football supporters found that 81% of supporters thought Scottish football had a problem with sectarianism.

In the following two years there has been little change in the social environment surrounding Scottish football and many fans doubt that any real change will be enacted soon.

But something needs to change. Scottish football lives in the stone age when it comes to this level of discrimination. Clubs must act and distance themselves from the supporters involved if they stand any chance of stamping out sectarianism for good.

Scottish Premier League – Midweek round-up

Rangers closed the gap between themselves and third placed Aberdeen to three points with a 2-0 victory at Partick Thistle last night.

Goals either side of the break from Josh Windass and James Tavernier was enough to secure the three points for Graham Murty’s side.

Partick Thistle started the brighter of the two sides with Connor Sammon causing problems up front.  Jags manager Alan Archibald will have been left wondering what might have been with his side’s pressure forcing Rangers into making early mistakes.

As time passed, Rangers began to gain more control with Jason Holt commanding the midfield.

Thistle thought they had broke the deadlock when Ryan Edwards latched onto Sammon’s flick on but his powerful volley was ruled out for offside.  The decision was contested by Archibald with TV replays showing a tight call.

The scoring was opened with a slick counter-attack with Candeias playing a lovely first-time cross with Windass smashing home the finish.

A strike off the post from Sammon just before half time was the best chance Thistle missed to get back into the game.

In the second half, James Tavernier ensured the Teddy Bears would be going home with all three points with a spectacular curled-strike into the top corner.

Thistle put up a valiant effort but were outdone by a superior Rangers side.



Two late goals secured a 2-0 win over St Johnstone to break into the top six in the Scottish Premiership.

St Johnsotne had won 8 out of the 11 previous meetings with Motherwell and it was the Saints who started the better side.

Stefan Cougall was proving tough to handle for the opening 20 minutes, before picking up an injury after landing awkwardly.

It was a lacklustre first half performance from the Well, yet they did create the best chance when Curtis Main had his strike from outside the box strike off the bar and over.

After the break, Motherwell came to life, created much more going forward with Main being the forefront.

Motherwell eventually made the breakthrough following good work on the left.  Rose then laid the ball across for Campbell to convert in the six-yard box – his first goal since April.

Main’s hard work deserved a goal and he was duly rewarded.  Richard Tait won the ball just outside the Saints box, who then served the ball through to Main.  He swivelled and put his left-foot shot beyond Saints keeper Mannus.

The win means well overtake Kilmarnock into sixth, although the Ayrshire side have three games in hand over the Lanarkshire side.



Football Chat @ 3pm

The squad are back to breakdown Scottish football.

The Scottish draw results in another Edinburgh Derby, Celtic are back in action in the Champions League and why do Rangers still not have a new manager?

Ewan Hawthorne is joined by Ryan Maher and Cameron Storer.


Rangers search for Pedro Caixinha’s replacement continues. Who’s in the running for the Ibrox Post?

Almost a month has passed since Pedro Caixinha lost his job as Rangers manager, and we are still unaware of who will now take up the position.
There have been more contenders than the Grand National, but EN4 News attempts to whittle down the most likely of the prospective candidates.

The former Rangers manager (2001-2006) had a largely successful period at Ibrox, and has become the bookies favourite to return to the hot-seat. McLeish has expressed his interest in the vacancy, but fans are split regarding his credentials.

McLeish visits Ibrox for a cup match. Photograph: Daily Record

The 58 year old understands the weight of expectation with the club, with his previous spell in charge suggesting he could turn Rangers into legitimate challengers to Celtic.

However, since leaving the Scottish national team set-up in 2007, his management career has been mediocre, meaning plenty of supporters would consider him an underwhelming appointment, and possibly past his prime.


Derek McInnes

The current Aberdeen boss has had a fantastic spell in charge at Aberdeen, transforming the club into the country’s second best team, both in the absence and presence of Rangers. If granted the job, supporters will be hoping with the greater resources available he could help the club usurp their Old Firm rivals.

Having played for Rangers in the 1990s, McInnes has seemed the logical and most likely choice to become the next boss for much of the past few weeks. Ties to the club and recent success in the league means fan and media response has been positive.

McInnes with Pedro Caixinha. Photograph: Sky Sports

It’s unclear what the major stumbling block is; the compensation fee to break his Aberdeen contract, or apathy on the side of either McInnes or Rangers.


Graeme Murty

Former Reading captain and Scotland international, Murty has undertaken the role of caretaker since Caixinha’s sacking, earning praise from supporters and players alike.

This support, victories against Hearts and Patrick Thistle, and the low-cost nature of his appointment looked to have put Murty into contention with taking the position full tim

Caretaker boss Murty takes charge of training. Photograph: Daily Record

However, a dismal 2-0 defeat against Hamilton last weekend meant could well have irrecoverably dented his chances of being named the Rangers boss. The loss meant it has been over a year since the Gers last won three games in a row, and leaves them with two wins from 7 at Ibrox.


Frank de Boer

Former Barcelona player and Dutch international de Boer has been linked as has compatriot Giovanni van Bronckhorst, yet it is the former that appears more likely due to being both unemployed, and having stated publicly his interest in the role.

Hot property after an impressive spell as Ajax manager, failed ventures to first Inter Milan and then Crystal Palace have diminished his trendiness. A crack at the Rangers job would likely be make or break for his high-level coaching career.

de Boer chats with Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers. Photograph: HITC

The Dutchman’s prospects would be far greater had another foreign manger in the Portuguese Caxinha not flopped so badly. However, de Boer’s brief stint as a player at Ibrox may ease the demand for a “Rangers man” to take over.


Keep up to date with all the latest news and features from EN4NEWS

Are football tickets too pricey for Scottish fans?

The BBC published its Price of Football study this week. It’s a detailed analysis of how much fans will spend supporting their club over the course of a season – from tickets to pies.

The study covers 13 leagues across Britain, and some in Europe. The Edinburgh-based football clubs, Hearts, Hibernian and Edinburgh City, have all been analysed as part of Scotland’s inclusion.

The Gorgie Road stand at Hearts’ Tynecastle. Photo Credit: (Christian Cooksey/Getty Images)

And the figures revealed in the study range from the cost of a season ticket to how much a cup of tea is at home matches.

Hearts have just moved back in to Tynecastle following a brief stay at Murrayfield, but their figures do not appear to have been affected. The study shows that the cheapest season ticket to watch the Gorgie club is currently £300. The most expensive single ticket is £33.

Across Edinburgh, Hibernian’s cheapest season ticket of £335 is more expensive than their rivals. The two clubs are relatively similar in terms of prices for pies, teas and replica shirts.

Lower league Edinburgh City hold a firm figure for all season tickets. Everyone committed to watching the club this season have paid £160. As expected, their cost of single match tickets to adult replica shirts are all much cheaper than the bigger clubs.

By using the fan cost calculator supplied by the BBC – finding out how much it is to follow each of the Edinburgh clubs with season tickets is quite easy.

If you are a Hearts fan, the study reveals that it will cost approximately £824 in total this season. This figure is based on the cheapest season ticket and buying one pie, tea and programme per home match.

Football fans can pay upwards of £100 across a season for pies. Photo Credit (Alex Morton/Getty Images)

Pies and teas across the season could come to approximately £86. Paying for programmes could come to £66.50 and an adult replica shirt is around £48.

Hibernian fans will be spending slightly more over the course of the season. The calculator suggests that an average season ticket holder could be spending around £850 to watch the Easter Road side.

Compared to Hearts, Hibernian’s pies and teas prices could come to a total of nearly £90. Replica adult shirts for the 2016 Scottish Cup winners are £3 less expensive than at Hearts.

Both clubs’ final totals have the TV sport subscription price included – which is the same across the board for SPFL clubs. £324 could be spent by fans of the Edinburgh rivals so that they won’t miss some of their club’s action if they can’t make it to a match this season.

This subscription price means that even Edinburgh City’s fans could be spending, surprisingly, upwards of £600 this season.

It’s much cheaper for pies and teas at the Meadowbank club – just £41 across the season. It is nearly £50 less for a fan to enjoy a beverage at every home match for the League Two side than that of an avid Hibernian fan at Easter Road.

In Edinburgh alone, football fans collectively for all three clubs are spending nearly £2300 supporting their side.

Easter Road, home of Edinburgh side Hibernian. Photo Credit: Steve Walsh/Getty Images

Comparing the Hibernian and Hearts figures to that of Glasgow’s Old Firm however, is much more revealing.

Fans of the current Scottish champions, Celtic, are estimated in the study to be spending £909 over the season. This could be much more for supporters with the most expensive season ticket at Celtic Park reaching £609.

Their rivals, Rangers, are close behind, with their fans spending approximately £875 this season. Pies and teas at Ibrox could reach up to £96 for season ticket holders.

Combined, the two top-flight Edinburgh clubs’ fans might spend £1700 this campaign. Across the country in Glasgow, Old Firm supporters could be paying £1800.

On the evidence of these figures, it’s true what they say. Football really is nothing without the fans.

Keep up to date with all the latest news and features from EN4NEWS

EN4 Football Chat #1



Join Ryan Maher and Ewan Hawthorne on the EN4 News football podcast as they discuss the game’s biggest happenings in Scotland and England.

The Premier League title race and Ronald Koeman’s sacking are major talking points, as our hosts are joined by Jamie Taylor and Cameron Storer.

Ryan and Ewan also consider the Scottish League Cup Semi-Finals and what the results mean for the clubs and coaches, with Rangers being humbled by Motherwell and Celtic putting 4 past Hibernian.


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