First Competitive Game of the Season

So now we know that we’ll at lest be heading to Scandinavia to play our first competitive game of the season.
With the first leg between HJK Helsinki & KR Reykjavik sitting at 7-0 to HJK, I cannot imagine the Finnish side dropping a 7 goal lead even though the 2nd leg will be in Iceland.
With this in mind, I think it’s safe too say that our first game will indeed be against the Finnish Champions.
We’ve faced this team before. Back in 2000 we faced Helsinki, we won 2-0  at Celtic Park with two first half goals from Henrik Larsson. The 2nd leg though was a lot tighter with a Chris Sutton extra time winner being the difference between the sides.
The main danger we face with this side is that they have already started their season, placed 2nd after 17 games. This was seen as a factor during our game in 2000 and it’s to be considered a concern come our first leg on the 31st July / 1st August at Celtic Park.
Most notable players for me are Juho Makela & Mika Väyrynen.
Makela is known to Scottish football having spent time at Hearts. Although not considered a success at Tynecastle he should still be considered a threat for Helsinki having scored 3 goals against Reykjavik and being the Finnish league’s top scorer in season 2010/2011.
Mika Väyrynen although for me should be considered more of a key player. Like many Scandinavian players, Mika has spent a lot of time outside his home football league having played with dutch sides SC Heerenveen & PSV Eindhoven. Having also spent time recently at Leeds United in the English Championship it’s this experience that makes me think this will be a player to watch.
Although we have obstacles in our way, mainly in terms of fitness etc I do still believe we have enough in our locker (with or without new signings) to qualify for the next stage. It will be vitally important to make sure that after our first game at Celtic Park that we head to Helsinki with a commanding result as come the latter stages of the 2nd leg, we do not want to have it still tight and the game still in the balance.

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