No CL pressure on Celtic

Celtic should be able to play free from pressure against AC Milan later this month, according to a sports psychologist.

Last Updated: 10/11/13 at 14:56 Post Comment    Bet with SkyBet  Scottish Premiership. Click here to bet.

Anthony Stokes: Has been working with a psychologist

Anthony Stokes: Has been working with a psychologist

The sports psychologist who has worked with Anthony Stokes believes the Celtic striker and the rest of his team-mates should be able to play free from pressure against AC Milan in their crunch Champions League clash at Parkhead later this month.

The Hoops' 1-0 damaging loss to Ajax in the Amsterdam ArenA on Wednesday night left them bottom of Group H with three points from four games, one behind the Dutch side and two behind the Rossoneri.

Neil Lennon's men have to play already-qualified Barcelona in the Nou Camp in their final group fixture in December which intensifies the need to beat Milan.

However, Dan Abrahams, who worked with Stokes for two years when he was at Hibernian and whose advice helped him win a move to Parkhead in 2010, claims there "is no added pressure on Celtic".

He said: "If they have to win and can't lose - why not go for it?

"They can go in to the game with a nothing-to-lose attitude.

"If anything the pressure is taken off and it should make it easier to play with freedom as long as they keep their shape, remember their responsibilities and take their chances when they come along.

"They are playing against world-class players and when there is less expectancy to win - and expectancy is a big thing in sport - then you can play with more freedom.

"They have to forget about the negatives against Ajax and focus on the positives.

"It is a real challenge for Celtic but they have got a chance."

Lennon is acutely aware that Celtic have scored only two goals in their four group games, winger James Forrest converting a penalty and midfielder Beram Kayal scoring with a deflected shot in the 2-1 home win over Ajax last month.

Stokes, who recently signed a new contract with the Scottish champions, has not scored in his last six appearances for the Hoops and it was left to defender Virgil van Dijk and midfielder Joe Ledley to grab two apiece in Saturday's comprehensive 4-1 Scottish Premiership win over Ross County in Dingwall.

Abrahams, who is coming to the David Lloyd Sports Centre in Renfrew on Wednesday to speak at a Performance Conference hosted by former St Mirren sports scientist Craig McGinlay's EP Sports Consultancy company, believes some "simple" techniques should help the Hoops strikers.

"Anthony, like all strikers, has to focus on the things that help them score and contribute to the team - making runs, pulling defenders out of position - rather than becoming obsessed with scoring," said Abrahams, who has also worked with West Ham and England striker Carlton Cole as well as other players he cannot name due to confidentiality.

"If strikers go two or three games without scoring they must not rehearse the failure, they have to keep positive, they need to keep on going."

While Celtic are five points clear of Inverness at the top of the table as domestic football gives way to the international break, their comfortable win in the Highlands left County in 10th place.

Staggies manager Derek Adams said: "Celtic were worthy winners. We got back to 2-1 and you are thinking that you maybe have an opportunity to get back, without doing anything in the game but they are a quality side."

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