FK Sarajevo v Celtic: Preview
Updated: May 13
Celtic get back to competitive action against FK Sarajevo in Bosnia & Herzegovina this week in the first game of the 2019/20 season. An unknown quantity is usually an annual occurrence in the 1st round of Champions League qualifying, but we wanted to know if the Bosnian champions could pose us a threat in the early stages.
We reached out to Bosnian football journalist Saša Ibrulj to give us the lowdown on Tuesday night's opponents.
What style of football do FK Sarajevo play; is it possession based or do they like to play on the counter-attack?
"Well, this is a difficult question. FK Sarajevo is completely different while playing domestic football than in Europe. The reason is simple - the lack of quality in European terms. This is why they do tend to play possession football and control the ball back home, but against stronger opposition - like any other Bosnian club - they adapt and play much more defensive. This is why it is difficult to talk about the style they prefer."
What sort of formation do FK Sarajevo usually play and how would you expect them to set up against Celtic?
"FK Sarajevo played with 4-2-3-1 for most of the season, this is something Musemic prefers and I am sure he'll deploy the same system this week. The only difference is the approach - I expect them to have much more careful and measured approach with defending their own goal as the priority."
Who are the danger men Celtic have to be aware of from FK Sarajevo?
"Mersudin Ahmetovic is an experienced striker who played in Russia and he is one of the rare players with proper international experience. He is not very mobile and often leaves the impression that he is not doing any effort at all, but he can be very clinical and score out of nowhere."
What are the weaknesses Celtic can exploit in the FK Sarajevo team?
"Non-existing experience. No Bosnian club ever qualified for the CL or EL group stages, so these qualifiers are seen as the rare opportunity to play big clubs like Celtic. The problem is that players are often too impressed. The other problem is the pressure - even if they play good in the first leg, Bosnian teams often fall apart in the second leg. And that is literally - as soon as they concede they crumble into pieces. Last season's EL match vs Atalanta is the perfect example." (Sarajevo lost 10-2 to Atalanta in Europa League Qualifying Last Season).
How is this tie viewed in Bosnia? Are FK Sarajevo considered huge underdogs or do they think they have a real chance in the tie?
"I don't think many are giving serious chances to FK Sarajevo; we all hope that they could have some luck, use the fact that the season is not started yet and upset Celtic, but over two legs FK Sarajevo hardly have any chance."
If Celtic can handle the hostile atmosphere in Sarajevo on Tuesday night and get a positive result to bring back to Glagsow, we should secure passage to the 2nd Qualifying Round with relative ease. I think the key will be for Celtic to stay calm and avoid inviting any trouble that might breathe life into Sarajevo in front of their home crowd. The arduous journey to the Group Stages starts here - come on Celtic!
A massive thanks to Saša for taking the time to speak to us.