Can Celtic forget the past to beat Rapid Vienna in the Europa League?

Celtic v Rapid Vienna, Europa League, October 1, 2009

Celtic 8/13; Draw 11/4; Rapid Vienna 9/2

If your 30-years-old or younger you may not know the story of Celtic and Rapid Vienna from 1984, but the first meeting between the sides in nearly a quarter of a century is set to rekindle old rivalries between the Scottish and Austrian giants.

Time for a story.

Back in 1984, in the old Cup Winners Cup, Celtic drew Rapid with the Austrians running out 3-1 winners from the first leg. Up against it, David Hay’s Super Hoops returned to Celtic Park needing a huge performance in the second leg, and that’s exactly what they got in an explosive tie that still lives long in the memory.

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After clawing back two goals, Celtic then took the roof off the stadium as Tommy Burns slid in controversially on the visitors’ keeper to scoop the ball out of the goalie’s grasp and convert the third to apparently seal Celtic’s place in the quarter-finals 4-3 on aggregate.

But then all hell broke loose, as both sides lost their cool leading to problems spilling over in the stands. With the Austrians appealing against Burns’ goal by berating the linesman for not having called a foul, one stupid Celtic fan decided to hurl a beer can at the Rapid players, and that set off a chain reaction of events which saw the match incredibly forced to be replayed at Old Trafford.

The troublemaker of the story was Rapid’s midfielder Rudi Weinhofer, who vociferously claimed he had been wounded by the rogue bottle. Still today the arguments rages, with Rapid players insisting that they saw blood on Weinhofer’s head while the Celtic players are equally insistent there was no evidence of injury.

(Match highlights of Celtic’s 3-nil win can be seen here, while the bottle incident can be seen here.)

After the match the Austrian’s petitioned UEFA to have the match replayed, and eventually the governing body sided with Rapid. And low-and-behold the replay went the way of the Austrians by a narrow 1-nil scoreline, however that match was also marred by terrible scenes of hooliganism as Celtic fans assaulted some unfortunate Rapid players at full time.

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Several decades later and the bad blood continues to boil between the two clubs, with Rapid having just this week reversed their decision to wear an all-red kit, as was worn in the replay at Old Trafford, as a mark of “respect” against the Scots. In truth though, Celtic, after losing their opening group match in Hapoel Tel Aviv two weeks ago, have more pressing issues at hand than rewriting the history books.

Aiden McGeady (8/1 to score last) remains touch-and-go for the match with Rapid, while Tony Mowbray may be forced to include Scott Brown and/or Barry Robson (11/2 to score) in the centre of the park after both players have begun their return to fitness from injury. That could pave the way for Northern Ireland’s Paddy McCourt (7/2 to score) to be thrown into the deep end after the twinkle toes midfielder bagged two brilliant goals in Celtic’s last two matches.

Rapid come into the match in superb form after a testing opening to their domestic season; the Austrians have won their last four straight matches while being unbeaten in their six last outings.

After moving from Reid last summer, Moroccan forward Hamdi Salihi has hit his stride with Rapid scoring three goals in three matches. With four goals in eight games, Steffen Hofmann (9/1 to score first) is the experienced pro in the middle of the park, while dovetailing in the centre of the pitch is 19-year-old upstart Christopher Drazan (25/1 to score first) , who is being hyped as one of the brightest talents in Austrian football.

101predicts: Celtic 3 – Rapid Vienna 0 (10/1)

Full match odds here.


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