Tony Mowbray, installed as Celtic boss after leaving relegated West Bromwich Albion, and former England manager Steve McClaren face a Champions League test of their credentials this week.
Mowbray’s Scottish giants face a tricky task against Russian side Dinamo Moscow in the first leg of their third qualifying round tie, while McClaren’s Dutch outfit FC Twente tackle Sporting Lisbon.
“I went to see them [Dinamo] on Saturday against Lokomotiv Moscow and they handled the atmosphere there very well,” said Mowbray, back at Celtic where he also featured as a player. “They have a very set pattern of play that’s clear to see and they do it very well. They are a young team, but very athletic and they try to hit you on the counterattack. I’m sure they will come to Parkhead to be very organized, but try to score an away goal. We will have to keep our concentration, but at the same time, I think we have some players who can cause them problems.”
Celtic warmed up for tomorrow’s tie by winning the Wembley Cup pre-season tournament at the weekend, beating Egypt’s Al Alhy 5-0 and Tottenham Hotspur 2-0.
Meanwhile, McClaren has bounced back in style from his England nightmare by leading unfashionable Dutch side FC Twente to a place in the Champions League.
Twente’s achievement is all the more impressive by the fact that they, along with AZ, kept the Netherlands’ “Big Three” of Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven out of the top two for the first time in 50 years last season.
In his first season in charge, McClaren led Twente to their best ever league finish, a far cry from the dark days with England.
To boost his team’s chances in Europe, McClaren has signed Costa Rica’s Bryan Ruiz from Gent for a club record fee of 5 million euros (US$7.1 million). He has also signed Iraqi star Nashat Akram on a three-year deal.
The promising midfielder with 75 international caps is the first Iraqi player to join the Dutch league and only the second to play in Europe.
Akram, 24, previously played for Qatari club Al-Gharrafa and last year was on trial at Manchester City, but was denied a work permit by the British government.
Twente will face a Sporting Lisbon side bolstered by the signing of Ecuadorean striker Felipe Caicedo on a season-long loan from Manchester City.
■TERRY STAYING PUT
Chelsea captain John Terry on Sunday put an end to speculation that he might be tempted by a mega-money move to Manchester City by confirming that he was “totally committed” to staying at Stamford Bridge.
The 28-year-old issued a statement saying, despite numerous reports to the contrary, he had never contemplated quitting the London club.
“There has been a lot of speculation recently about my future and I want to clear this up once and for all,” the England skipper said. “I am totally committed to Chelsea and always have been. Chelsea have also made it clear to me consistently that there was never any intention to accept any kind of offer.”
City have had two offers rejected for Terry, but boss Mark Hughes was reportedly planning a fresh £35 million bid for the defender.
Although Terry has spent his whole career at Chelsea and remains the club’s most talismanic figure, it was believed City’s offer to raise his wages to £200,000 (US$330,000) a week had forced the Blues skipper to consider his future.