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Beating Jock Stein #2 - Starting out in Europe

So far, my Celtic side are unbeaten in the Scottish Premiership, which isn't exactly a fantastic achievement, but at least I'm heading in the right direction. Some real challenges lie ahead of me right now, namely the Champions League group. We are clearly the favourites to win the wooden spoon, with Manchester United, Benfica and Dynamo Kyiv all at a much higher level than us. Still, I remember the glory days where Celtic beat Barcelona thanks to Tony Watt. Our first match is the draining away trip to Kyiv.

It's so cold that Craig Gordon is literally frozen to the near post for Dynamo's opening goal. The referee waves away my complaints, but allows my physio on to spray antifreeze on the goal posts and Gordon's gloves.

At half time I fill the team's bellies up with hot chocolate, and they surprisingly improve. Nir Bitton pulls one back for us, but Andriy Yarmolenko knocks in a 76th min goal to retake the lead for the Ukranians, then punishes us for daring to attack by heading home another. We are offered some vodka shots after the 3-1 defeat by Kyiv, but I tell the players they don't deserve vodka after the loss. Alex Grimaldo is an unfortunate casualty, slipping on a conveniently placed block of ice and spraining his ankle. The conspiracy theorists have a field day, claiming that the Russian mafia are involved in match fixing, and that an unnamed billionaire has won 3 million after betting on Grimaldo's injury.

Back home in the league, Dundee last 2 minutes before we pass our way through their defence. They last another 3 minutes before another goes in. I leave the rest of the half to my assistant and go to make a cup of hot chocolate.

I come back to a 4-1 lead, Rui Pedro and Gary Mackay-Steven with the goals. Two red cards for Dundee mean that I don't even bother watching the second half. Somehow another Dundee player gets sent off, and we see out the win.

I send the second string side out against Dumbarton in the League Cup. Only Scott Brown and Charlie Mulgrew are currently considered first team players. We get another 4-1 win, and amazingly Carlton Cole gets on the scoresheet.

The first team comes back in for the visit of second placed Hearts. We actually struggle to break them down, but eventually one goes in and we win 1-0 to go 9 points clear after just 9 games.

The next visitors to Celtic Park are Manchester United.

They put out a strong side, although there's no Depay or Martial. Phil Jones bangs in a header just before the half time whistle, and I instantly set Celtic up to attack. We get a few shots on target and finally Kris Commons pops up to finish off a rebound from David De Gea. Time for what I like to call super defensive mode!!! We park two Glasgow buses and the customers of the local pub in front of Craig Gordon's goal. United eventually give up and the referee calls time!!! We've stolen a draw against the mighty Manchester United!

I again get Scottish Manager of the Month. Champagne is swigged, and I drunkenly promise Stefan Johansen a starting spot in the next game.

This joy is short lived, as Hamilton finally break our unbeaten run in the league, squeezing in a 1-0 win.

In response to this terrible defeat, I mix my tactics up and end up with this.

I've never really tried a strikerless tactic, but I need something that'll really confuse teams for a few games. The Scottish Premiership is getting used to how we're playing, and I'm hoping that by mixing it up, I'll confuse the opposiiton. Kristoffer Ajer fits perfectly into the Shadow Striker role, although the wing backs aren't the most effective, but there's plenty of time for them to learn.

The signs look promising, but we just couldn't put the ball in the net. I want to shout and scream at the players, but we played really quite well considering the tactic was invented about 30 minutes before kick off, and drawn on the condensation on the team bus windows.

I've seen enough positives to try it again, this time against Benfica in the Champions League.

What a mistake. What a HUGE mistake.

We go 3-0 down by half time. Benfica have had less possession, but more chances. I switch to a more familiar defensive formation, but it's too late. We pull one back through substitute Rui Pedro and Kris Commons hits the bar, but by then the damage is done. Benfica get another two goals to make it 5-1 before Saidy Janko redeems a touch of respect with a cracking volley. It ends 5-2.

Things get worse when we draw 0-0 with a time wasting Dundee Utd. Carlton Cole comes into the office and asks for a chance in the first team. Things are turning so bad that I actually say yes. Maybe, just maybe, Carlton Cole could get us a few goals?

I adapt the strikerless disaster to accommodate Carlton as a target man up front, and get the wide players to whip in crosses.

Former Celtic man Willo Flood knocks a cross into his own net in the League Cup quarter final to give us a 1-0 lead against Aberdeen. Carlton Cole lasts an hour before getting sleepy and needing to come off. Flood makes things worse for himself and gets sent off with 15 minutes to go. The referee feels guilty and sends off Scott Brown to keep him company, just because he can. We close out the game, and I realise we have to play them again in the next league match.

I go back to the tried and trusted 4-2-3-1 Asymmetric, but I leave Cole up front again, just in case he scores a few and puts us back on track.

Carlton Cole actually scores a goal in a 3-2 win. Next up is Benfica, so Cole can't play as he isn't registered in the Champions League squad. Rui Pedro is injured so Nadir Ciftci gets into the starting lineup.

I have no idea how this is happening, but I'll take it! We are 3-0 up at half time against Benfica!! This is amazing.... 

Jonas pulls one back for Benfica in the 90th minute but I don't care. We have actually won a Champions League game!

We get a £1.07m win bonus for this win, and the board are so impressed that they offer me a new contract. And it's only just November...

In my next update, I'll be trying to make a big final push in the Champions League, and carry on dominating the league. Keep an eye out for it on Football Manager Blog!

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FM Blog: Beating Jock Stein #2 - Starting out in Europe
Beating Jock Stein #2 - Starting out in Europe
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