Step Forward Stefan Scepovic

Thursday night’s (02/10/2014) match against Dinamo Zagreb in the Europa League is a must win game for Celtic if they do not want to fall too far behind their visitors, and Red Bull Salzburg in Group D.  Dinamo thumped the Romanian’s Astra 5-1 in the opening round of matches, while Celtic drew 1-1 away at Salzburg.  Although not guaranteed victory, Salzburg will go into the second round of fixtures as strong favourites away to Astra therefore meaning that Celtic will need to beat Dinamo to keep in touch at top.  Fortunately for Celtic, history is on their side as they have not yet lost a home tie against Zagreb in European competition; hopefully this is not a case of famous last words and that run can continue.  Unfortunately for Celtic, it is difficult to see where the goals will come from to propel the side to victory and to overcome our own porous defence.

So far this season Celtic’s top scorers are Kris Commons (who is an injury doubt) and Callum McGregor, both midfielders and both on 4 goals.  Next up with 3 goals in his last two games is (super) John Guidetti, however the Swede is ineligible for the Europa League group stage and therefore will miss the Dinamo game.  Celtic’s remaining strikers, Stokes, Berget, Griffiths, and Scepovic have only managed 5 goals between them this season in a combined 1,661 minutes on the pitch with the later yet to get off the mark.  Now, more than ever, would be the perfect time for Scepovic to alter that statistic.  The Serb has featured on 5 occasions thus far (2 starts, 3 subs) accumulating just 194 minutes of game time, however due to the circumstances of his protracted on-off summer transfer he will be afforded less time than normal for a Celtic striker to settle in and start producing the goods; with Guidetti ruled out of Thursday’s game, Scepovic is almost certain to play a leading role in the Celtic side and must grab this opportunity with both hands.  The lad does have goals in him as his record in Spain shows, but the sooner he starts scoring for Celtic, the better.  Nothing quite exemplifies the need for Scepovic to step up to the plate more than the alternative up front; Anthony Stokes.  Stokes is a decent player.  He has a decent touch, a decent ability to pick a pass, and is a decent finisher; he is SPFL Premiership class but nothing more.  Despite this, he generally always gives his all for Celtic and has scored some vital goals in his time at the club.  However, 2 goals in 22 European tie’s, 2 goals in 12 appearances (849 minutes) this season, and a run of 8 games without a goal suggest that Stokes is not the main to take the central striker’s role at Celtic Park.  It is not a position he is comfortable with and his lack of predatory instinct underlines his inability to successfully fulfil this position.  With that in mind, and the absence of John Guidetti, the game could very well be set up for Stefan Scepovic to take centre stage and stake a claim to become Celtic’s next main striker and goal threat.

On another note, Celtic’s most ‘dangerous’ striker this season, going by goals per minute, is the now departed (on loan to Brondy) Teemu Pukki.   The Fin having notched 2 goals in 5 appearances (3 starts, 2 sub) covering 113 minutes of game time, which gives him an average of a goal every 56.5 minutes.  What the stats don’t tell us is that both those goals came in a single game against KR Reykjavik and that Pukki was posted missing in action for the majority of his time at the club.  Pukki presents another fine example of a Celtic ‘striker’ who is a decent footballer but not a goal scorer.  Someone who looks like he fits the bill of a goal scorer is John Guidetti.  Scorer of 20 goals in 23 games for Feyenoord in 2011-12 before injuries stunted his development, the Swede has already scored 3 goals in 4 appearances for Celtic, at an average of 1 every 78 minutes.  Fingers crossed we have another Swedish King on our hands.  And maybe an equally goal hungry Serb as well…

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