CELTIC supporters could be forgiven for not being entirely familiar with their opponents in the first knockout round of the Europa Conference League. 

When the draw was made and the Glasgow club were paired with Bodo/Glimt, more than a few fans will have been hastily googling the Norwegian outfit to discern just who these adversaries are.  

The first thing that they will have noticed is that this is a relatively small club, historically operating in Norway’s second tier, that is based in the Arctic Circle. A satisfying discovery for their club’s European ambitions. The second, more alarming, piece of trivia can be found in their recent results: back in October, they hammered Jose Mourinho’s Roma 6-1 in the Conference League. 

“That Roma win just put the spotlight on them,” notes David Weatherston, the former Queen’s Park, St Johnstone and Falkirk winger. Now retired from playing, the 35-year-old lives in Norway with his family and spends his free time writing detailed blogs about the state of football in his adopted country. 

“Last year was the first championship in their history and they followed that up with their second on Sunday. Historically, they’re a second-tier side. A lot of it is do with where it is in the north. Over the last two years it’s just clicked. Everything has worked out for them perfectly. 

Glasgow Times:

“The manager [Kjetil Knutsen] was promoted from within about three years ago and he’s still there but the rumour is that he could be on his way out over the winter. 

“It’s not really the same group [that won back-to-back titles]; there was a huge turnaround from last year. They scored 103 goals in 30 games last year in the league and then they lost 60 when their front three left [to sign for other clubs]. 

“They now have a completely different front three and it’s been a bit different this year. They scored 59 in 30 games but they’ve only conceded 25. So it’s been a little bit different but every bit as impressive.” 

As Weatherston touches on, it is Bodo/Glimt’s blistering attack that has proven to be the most fearsome weapon in their arsenal. Their emphatic goalscoring may have taken a downturn as players moved on to pastures new but their style of play leaves them perfectly equipped for the demands of European football. 

Some might point to their base in the Arctic as a possible reason for their remarkable home form – they have won all six European fixtures at the Aspmyra Stadion this season – but Weatherston believes that does Knutsen and his players a disservice. 

“I don’t think it’s that,” he says. “It’s quite an old stadium and it’s quite open, and it can be windy up there. But I think a lot of teams underestimated them in Europe – Roma definitely did. 

“They’re one of those teams that no matter who’s in, the system dictates and it works. The way they play at home – they just attack, attack, attack and it’s difficult for teams to stop them. They have good, talented players and if they are attacking all game they’re going to score goals. 

“A lot of teams that came and played Glimt [in the league] would sit 10 men behind the ball and refuse to come out and have a go. They had to find a new way to play this year. 

“Last year, their play was based a lot on transition – quick, quick transition. That’s a big reason behind their goalscoring in Europe this year. Teams don’t sit so low and that opens up space. They’re so quick in transitioning to attack, it’s just devastating.

"They couldn’t really do that in the league this year. It’s quite similar to Celtic: they press high but they’re probably better organised defensively in terms of shape. Celtic have a lot of quality – more so than Glimt, it’s a completely different ball game – but it’s going to be an interesting game."

There are two significant advantages enjoyed by Celtic, however: Ange Postecoglou’s men will go into the match mid-season, while the first leg in Glasgow will be Bodo/Glimt’s first competitive outing of 2022. Additionally, the Norwegians can expect to lose a player or two during the off-season, with left-back Fredrik Bjorkan already agreeing a Bosman move to Hertha Berlin. 

“The league usually starts on the last weekend in March or the first weekend in April,” Weatherston explained. “The left-back, the best one in the league, is away to Hertha Berlin. That’s one already that’s definitely leaving before the game comes around against Celtic, and there’s a lot of chat that he won’t be the only one. 

“Most of the players will have contracts that run out at this time of the year – I don’t think anyone else is out of contract – but it is the time of year where business gets done. 

“Quite a lot of teams from Norway go to Spain around February and have pre-season there because the weather here isn’t exactly ideal. That didn’t happen last year with Covid so it will be interesting to see if it’s possible this time.”