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Euro 2024: Brendan Rodgers draws optimism from Celtic’s progress in the Champions League as they prepare to face Atletico Madrid at the midway point. Despite sitting at the bottom of Group E with just one point, earned in a thrilling 2-2 draw with the Spaniards in Glasgow, Rodgers remains positive about the team’s development. Acknowledging the uphill battle, Rodgers acknowledges that the team has improved its performance over the course of three games.
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Although Celtic twice took the lead in their previous encounter, Atletico’s pressure in the second half required the team to showcase their adaptability. Rodgers emphasized the importance of maintaining a balance between aggressiveness and defensive stability, considering Atletico’s formidable prowess as former finalists. He highlighted the significance of sustaining the team’s confidence through consistent performances.
Despite the challenging fixture against Atletico, Celtic’s focus remains on securing a favorable result to carry into their upcoming matches against Lazio and Feyenoord. With midfielder Reo Hatate sidelined due to a hamstring injury, the team is set to rely on the return of Matt O’Riley, who was rested during the recent triumph against Ross County.
Notably, Celtic will have to navigate the match without the services of key players such as Stephen Welsh and Liel Abada, while Atletico faces the absence of Netherlands forward Memphis Depay, along with long-term casualties Samuel Lino and Thomas Lemar. Diego Simeone, the manager of Atletico Madrid, has emphasized the competitive nature of their group, acknowledging the impressive performances of Celtic against Feyenoord and Lazio.
Euro 2024: Atletico Madrid’s Strategic Plan to Tackle Celtic’s Dominance in Champions League Encounter
He stressed the importance of consistency in securing a spot in the last 16 of the tournament. Simeone expressed equal respect for both Atletico and Celtic, recognizing the challenge that the upcoming game. Recognizing Celtic’s strong start in matches and their aggressive pressing style, Simeone highlighted the need for Atletico to adapt and find ways to counter their opponent’s tactics. He emphasized the anticipation surrounding the game and the enthusiasm from both the fans and the team.
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Atletico aims to deliver an exceptional performance, seeking to rectify their previous encounter with Celtic. Following their draw at Celtic Park, Atletico achieved a 2-1 victory against Alaves, matching a club record of 14 consecutive home victories in La Liga. However, a surprise defeat against Las Palmas interrupted their winning streak, marking their second loss in 11 league matches this season. Alvaro Morata, who scored against Celtic, has netted a total of 10 goals for the club this season.
While Antoine Griezmann, also on the scoresheet against Celtic, has found the back of the net eight times in his last nine games for Atletico. In terms of match history, Atletico Madrid has remained undefeated in their seven European encounters with Celtic, securing four victories and three draws, including two wins out of three home games against the Bhoys, with one match ending in a draw.
Euro Cup Finals Tickets: Celtic’s Tough Run Against Spanish Teams and Atletico Madrid’s Strong Start
In their most recent encounter, Celtic faced their sixth consecutive defeat against Spanish teams in the UEFA Champions League, having last secured a 1-1 draw against Barcelona in November 2004. During this losing streak, they conceded a staggering 22 goals, with 18 of those goals conceded in just the last three matches.
The statistics underscore the frustration experienced by the Romanian team and their fans, as they were unable to translate their control of the game into a much-needed victory. The Euro Cup qualification journey remains a challenging one, and Romania will need to address their finishing issues to achieve their tournament aspirations. To read more about Spain defeating Scotland 2-0 qualifier for Euro 2024 Soccer Tournament Qualification.
Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid has displayed a strong start to their current Champions League campaign, avoiding defeat in their first three matches, a feat they last achieved in the 2019-20 season. Their previous unbeaten streak of four matches dates back to the 2016-17 season.
Despite their historical prowess, Celtic has struggled to keep clean sheets in their recent UEFA Champions League matches, with just one clean sheet in their last 34 games, a notable 3-0 victory against Anderlecht in September 2017. Since that victory, Celtic has faced a winless streak of 13 matches, including 10 losses, in the Euro 2024.
Atletico Madrid’s Dominance at Home and Celtic’s Struggle with Shots in Euro 2024 Champions League Clash
On the other hand, Atletico Madrid has demonstrated a dominant performance on their home turf, remaining unbeaten in their last six home games in the Champions League, with their last home defeat occurring against Milan in November 2021. Their overall record at the Cívitas Metropolitano stadium stands at 11 wins, 9 draws, and 3 losses in 23 matches.
Interestingly, Celtic has recorded the lowest number of shots (25) and the lowest expected goals total (2.27) in the current Champions League season. In contrast, Atletico Madrid, despite having the joint-fifth lowest number of shots (31), boasts the highest shot conversion rate in the tournament, standing at an impressive 19.4%. Antoine Griezmann of Atletico Madrid has demonstrated his goal-scoring prowess in the last two Champions League matches.
Although he has yet to score in three consecutive games in the competition, despite his overall tally of 32 goals in 88 appearances. Another key player for Atletico Madrid, Alvaro Morata, has recently found his scoring touch, netting three goals in his last two Champions League appearances, surpassing his previous tally of two goals in 16 matches. Notably, 18 of his last 20 Champions League goals have come during the group stages, including his last 11 goals.
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We are on the cusp of a new era for rugby in England following the conclusion of the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Steve Borthwick’s men brought home bronze medals from France following an impressive tournament run that saw them narrowly miss out on the Rugby World Cup final and predicted a Six Nations Team.
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The third place play-off victory over Argentina ended the iconic careers of Ben Young and Courtney Lawes in England. Youngs finished his international duties as England’s most capped player, having played 127 Test matches, while England vice-captain Lawes was left out of the squad for the bronze medal match. Lawes hung up his England boots after the semi-final defeat to South Africa to become England’s 105th and final cap, the fifth-highest capped England player.
Speculation is growing over the futures of three more England internationals, including striker Jonny May and veteran duo Dan Cole and Joe Marler, who are facing the twilight of their England careers. So the relentless pace of the rugby season continues with just four months until the start of the 2024 Six Nations. But, Borthwick could well use February and March next year as an opportunity to try out some new faces as England begin the next Rugby World Cup cycle in Australia in 2027.
Here is RUCK’s Predictions for Steve Borthwick’s England squad, for the 2024 Six Nations.
STARTING XV for Six Nations 2024
15. Marcus Smith (Harlequins)
14. Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers)
11. Anthony Watson (Leicester Tigers)
However, One of the areas of greatest controversy at the Rugby World Cup – Borthwick’s switch from Harlequins halfback Marcus Smith to fullback – has divided opinion among England fans. The dynamic playmaker was a great addition to the win over Chile but was beaten and bruised by the much more physical Fijians.
We expect Borthwick to continue with his Smith-Defender project and deploy the reliable Freddie Steward on the right wing, as he did against Argentina in the third-place play-off. Steward has adapted well to his position on the wing, where he previously excelled for Leicester Tigers. On the left side, we see Borthwick calling for Anthony Watson to return to the England squad while Jonny May’s international career appears to be over.
Watson’s World Cup Setback
Watson was originally included in Borthwick’s squad for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, but was ruled out of the entire tournament with a calf injury in the summer. May’s inclusion came late and with the Gloucester man all but gone to international level, the door is open again for former Borthwick man Leicester Watson. As great as it will be to see Henry Arundell back in the starting line-up, we expect the Racing 92 man to take a place on the bench for the opening matches of the Six Nations.
Arundell ended his Rugby World Cup campaign on a disappointing note as he barely saw the ball in the bronze medal match against Argentina. Arundell may have to prove himself once again at Borthwick, despite winning the hearts and minds of Twickenham fans with exciting performances for London Irish. Even though Arundell is set to play in France’s top 14, he retains eligibility for the 2024 Six Nations and should at least make Borthwick’s 23rd matchday.
13. Ollie Lawrence (Bath Rugby)
12. Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks)
However, a relatively new partnership on the international stage, the center midfield partnership of Manu Tuilagi and Ollie Lawrence looks like Borthwick’s best option for the 2024 Six Nations. This followed the departure of Joe Marchand to Stade France, ending the center’s nine-year spell at Harlequins. Marchand was a key member of England’s Rugby World Cup squad but missed his plane home and chose to remain in Paris for the foreseeable future.
Marchand is currently ineligible for England but has been open about his ambitions to wear the red rose later. Marchand’s circumstances differ from that of Henry Arundell, as Marchand voluntarily moved from Queens to France, while Arundell remained unemployed following the financial collapse of the London Irish Company. So, we expect the Tuilagi-Lawrence partnership to lead England’s midfield for some time to come. Having put pressure on Tuilangi for his starting place in the 2023 Six Nations, Lawrence is now likely to line up alongside the Sale Sharks man.
Moreover, Borthwick has previously expressed interest in Northampton’s Guy Porter, with the Saints player included in the wider training squad for the Rugby World Cup. Exeter Chiefs’ Henry Slade could also try to return to the England squad after Borthwick left him out of the 33-man World Cup squad. Expect plenty of powerful strikes from the midfield duo, who last played 29 minutes together in the World Cup quarter-final against Fiji.
10. Owen Farrell (Saracens)
9. Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints)
The latest stages of the Rugby World Cup have revealed midfielder Borthwick’s plans for the foreseeable future. But, England captain Owen Farrell is likely to lead the line in the second half, with George Ford coming on as a substitute for the 2024 Six Nations. As previously mentioned, Marcus Smith could continue to play at fullback, which we believe could open the door to an apprenticeship spot for 21-year-old Northampton Saints midfielder Fin Smith.
It’s unlikely that Fin Smith will get much game time with Farrell and Ford in the squad, but the Saints youngster will have invaluable opportunities to learn and improve with the England squad. With Farrell 32 and Ford 30, it would be very difficult to see both midfielders at the 2027 Rugby World Cup, so why not start representing the next generation sooner rather than later. A start against Italy could introduce Fin Smith’s blockbuster talent to the English public and sow the seeds for years to come.
Alex Mitchell’s Rapid Rise
Despite being left out of the original Rugby World Cup squad, Alex Mitchell took advantage of his opportunity after joining the team late. Mitchell was flown to France to replace Jack van Poortvliet when the scrum-half suffered a late ankle injury during the summer warm-up match against Wales. Mitchell became Borthwick’s leading half-back at the Rugby World Cup and could well retain that role for the 2024 Six Nations.
Behind Mitchell will likely be the returning Van Portvliet, who will take over the number 21 shirt. However, the Tigers half-back will want to make the most of his time and push the Northampton scrum-half to retain his starting jersey. Ben Youngs’ confirmed international appearance has opened the door for both van Poortvliet and Mitchell to flourish, but Danny Care has hinted he has no immediate plans to hang up his boots for England. Harlequin is our choice as a third scrum-half to add an experienced voice to the England camp throughout the 2024 Six Nations.
1. Ellis Genge (Bristol Bears)
2. Jamie George (Saracens)
3. Will Stuart (Bath Rugby)
Now let’s talk about the strikers, this is an area of big change in the new era of Steve Borthwick. There is growing anticipation that experienced props Joe Marler and Dan Cole will leave with the squad, with our leading loose and restrained props being Ellis Genge and Will Stewart. But, Genge has, as expected, taken the lead role in the number one shirt at the Rugby World Cup and if Marler leaves, Baby Rhino will take full responsibility for the 2024 Six Nations Championship.
Dan Cole’s Enduring Role for Six Nations
The stronghold is an area of greater intrigue as, despite questions surrounding his future with England, Dan Cole has played a leading role for much of the Rugby World Cup. The 36-year-old started four of England’s matches, including the quarter-finals and semi-finals. Six Nations 2024 rugby fans can book Scotland Vs England Tickets on our website at exclusively discounted prices.
The real Leicester man overtook Kyle Sinclair for the third shirt, with Bristol Bears not making the impact he had hoped for in France. But, if Cole leaves, we could see Will Stewart step in after a string of impressive performances and putting pressure on Sinclair for the 2023 Six Nations.
Borthwick could well push Stewart and send him to the front line to start playing for his new England team. Between the props we can still see room for Jamie George and his Saracens understudy Theo Deng, who are set to wait a little longer after their substitutions.
George is without doubt England’s best player at hooker and has been since he took the reins from Dylan Hartley back in 2017. Dan is in the best possible place to learn and improve from George, who could well be preparing to pass the torch for his club and fellow international ahead of the 2027 Rugby World Cup.
4. Maro Itoje (Saracens)
5. Ollie Chessum (Leicester Tigers)
The second-row pairing of Maro Itoje and Ollie Chessouma is slowly becoming England’s most reliable option at scrum-half. But, the duo have worked well together throughout the Rugby World Cup and we predict Saracens and Leicester Tigers will work together again for the majority of the Six Nations. However, Chessum’s Leicester team-mate George Martin has certainly made a bid for selection and could well be in contention for a first-round start against Italy.
Martin was selected to start in the semi-final against South Africa and his powerful tackles were used from the start against the bruising Springboks. however, this is an area where Martin appears to be edging out Chessum and a strong performance against the Azzurri will only strengthen his claim to take the starting spot from his Welford Road compatriot.
However, after a stunning Rugby World Cup campaign, we cannot afford to see Itoje lose his place in Borthwick’s second row. But, the Sarries star has returned to his best form in France and gives England fans plenty to be excited about ahead of the 2024 Six Nations.
Six Nations 2024 – Changing Landscapes in the Second Row
As for the other players in the squad, England will be without David Ribbans for the 2024 Six Nations as the second row has decided to move across the Channel to Toulon. But, a former Northampton Saints player has admitted he will not be able to play for Borthwick in the future, opening the door for England fans to return. Joe Launbury has signed for Harlequins ahead of the 2023/24 season after being transferred to Japanese club Toyota Verblitz following the collapse of Wasps.
At 32, Lawnbury still has petrol in the tank for his first England cap since the 2022 Six Nations. Now that the lock has returned to England, Borthwick could well look to leverage Lawnbury’s international experience and call up the Quins new signing for occasional appearances in the 2024 Six Nations squad. Lawnbury could play a veteran utility role and offer more than a decent option if Borthwick calls up the 60-cap England international.
6. Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby)
7. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks)
8. Ben Earl (Saracens)
We now round out our predictions with our best bets on who will finish in Borthwick’s back row. There is a change at fullback on the wing after Courtney Lawes confirmed his retirement from international duty following the end of the Rugby World Cup. But, Lawes did not feature in England’s bronze medal victory over Argentina, having been one of Borthwick’s best players in the competition.
Lawes’ departure opens the door for Lewis Ludlum and Sam Underhill to compete for the England number six. But, Borthwick selected the Bath man to reunite the Under-Curry partnership against Los Pumas and we predict the same will happen in the Six Nations, with Ludlam on the bench. The Northampton Saints man is a versatile asset in the back line and could well be a replacement at number eight.
A Reshuffle in the Back Row
However, Borthwick selected Ludlam to start at No. 8 in England’s Group D win over Japan and the Saints man marked the occasion with a successful try. After sitting behind Ben Earl for much of the Rugby World Cup, but, it will now be difficult to find a place for specialist eight Billy Vunipola in the matchday 23 field.
It would be a bold move to remove Vunipola from the squad. The whole squad is together, but we have decided to look to the future and freshen up the wider training group with underrated Gloucester star Zac Mercer and Saracens newbie Tom Willis. Six Nations 2024 rugby fans can book Scotland Vs England Tickets on our website at exclusively discounted prices.
We predict Borthwick to select Curry at wide open and Ben Earl at number eight, but they are also interchangeable, with Curry previously receiving captain’s representatives at the scrum-end for England under Eddie Jones. There will also be no place in the squad for Jack Willis, as the defender has signed a contract extension with Toulouse.
Unfortunately, this has ruled the former Wasps player out of contention for future England caps as his brother Tom is in our projected squad following his return to the Premier League from Bordeaux-Begles.
16. Theo Dan (Saracens)
17. Bevan Rodd (Sale Sharks)
18. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears)
19. George Martin (Leicester Tigers)
20. Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints)
21. Jack van Poortvliet (Leicester Tigers)
22. George Ford (Sale Sharks)
23. Henry Arundell (Racing 92)
ADDITIONAL SQUAD MEMBERS for Six Nations (WIDER TRAINING GROUP)
24. Val Rapava-Ruskin (Gloucester Rugby)
25. George McGuigan (Newcastle Falcons)
26. Tom West (Saracens)
27. Joe Launchbury (Harlequins)
28. Zach Mercer (Gloucester Rugby)
29. Tom Willis (Saracens)
30. Danny Care (Harlequins)
31. Fin Smith (Northampton Saints)
32. Guy Porter (Northampton Saints)
33. Elliot Daly (Saracens)
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