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Champions League: Celtic and Ajax Face Problems Ahead of Crunch Tie

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - MAY 26:  Celtic's manager Neil Lennon looks on during the William Hill Scottish Cup Final match between Celtic and Hibernian at Hampden Stadium on May 26, 2013 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
Sean MartinContributor IDecember 13, 2016

It's win or bust for Celtic in the Champions League on Tuesday as Dutch champions Ajax come to Glasgow for the first of a double header with just a single point separating the pair.

Celtic boss Neil Lennon played in both matches the last time the sides met back-to-back, in the 2001 group stage qualifiers.

They each won away from home back then, with Celtic prevailing 3-2 on aggregate. 

To add even more spice to the match this time round, both sides face a different kind of problem going in to the game.

 

Celtic's Injuries

Celtic must cope with injuries to several key players with the biggest worry now replacing Kris Commons, their main creative outlet with six assists this term, who was ruled out of the game with a hamstring strain picked up in Saturday's 1-1 Scottish Premiership draw with Hibernian.

Longer-term wounded Adam Matthews, Steven Moyoukolo and former Ajax winger Derk Boerrigter remain on the sidelines, with Welsh international Matthews in particular a big miss for the Glasgow side having impressed playing right midfield this European campaign.

Mikael Lustig will have a late fitness test before a decision is made on his availability, while captain Scott Brown is definitely missing after he was handed a three-match ban following his sending off against Barcelona, suggesting Charlie Mulgrew is likely to start in central midfield.

The good news for boss Neil Lennon is that not only is Honduras left-back Emilio Izaguirre in line to start following a spell out with a virus, but James Forrest and Joe Ledley are available again after lengthy lay-offs.

While off the pitch the fans will be as vocal as ever, once more Celtic's fortunes on the pitch may rest on the shot-stopping of Fraser Forster and the form of Greek forward Georgios Samaras.

 

Ajax's Away Form

Ajax, meanwhile, have to contend with a problem many a Celtic fan will empathise with: poor away form. 

The Dutch champions haven't recorded a win in any of their five domestic away games so far this term and currently sit fourth in the Eredivisie.

They have played once away in the Champions League, going down 4-0 to Barcelona in the Camp Nou.

As might be expected, Ajax much prefer to play a short passing, attacking game. However, losing the key component of their attack in Christian Eriksen to Tottenham during the summer lessened their offensive threat; as it would any team who lost a player of his calibre.

While they seem to spread their goals around some, they do have an in-form striker in the shape of Kolbeinn Sigthorsson.

The Icelandic international has scored four in his last four matches for his country (all World Cup 2014 qualifiers) and has netted seven times in 13 matches so far for Ajax.

 

The Match

With a last 16 spot still technically possible, Frank de Boer will be looking to win the match regardless of recent travelling form.

Ultimately, Celtic need to ensure Tuesday's match results in them getting some points on the board after two defeats from two games so far.

If not, reaching the last 16 for a second consecutive season will be all but beyond them.

Key men: Georgios Samaras (Celtic), Kolbeinn Sigthorsson (Ajax)

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