CELTIC will look to bounce back from last weekend’s derby defeat at Parkhead on Thursday night when AC Milan come to town in their opening Europa League group stage fixture.

The Italian giants will arrive in Glasgow with plenty of pedigree and an impressive run of form, with a squad full of quality players. Here, we pick out three key men for the Rossoneri and dig into the numbers behind them.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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You may have heard of the big fella. Obviously, we all know about Ibrahimovic’s immense talent and despite celebrating his 39th birthday earlier this month, he remains in peak physical condition and is showing no signs of slowing down.

The Swedish superstar has four goals in two Serie A games this season – including a brace against Inter at the weekend – and while he remains an incredibly dangerous threat in front of goal, he is also a handful for opposing defenders to deal with.

Ibrahimovic is a real presence in attack and provides the focal point for Stefano Pioli’s team. He attempts 22.3 duels per game and wins 41% of them – an excellent return for a centre-forward – and averages 7.5 touches in the opposition box per game. As we all know, he only needs one to get his shot away and they often whistle into the back of the net.

The sheer frame of the striker and his physicality means he is excellent at holding the ball up and he also excels at picking out his team-mates as they rush forward to join the attack. An incredible 87.5% of his passes in the final third reach their intended target – not only is he lethal in front of goal, but he also happens to be pretty handy in the build-up, too.

Theo Hernandez

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The Frenchman is a nominal left-back but it might be more accurate to describe him as a left winger. Terrific with the ball at his feet and with a penchant for surging up the left flank, Celtic will have to keep a very, very close eye on him.

The 23-year-old is incredibly attack-minded and was even the Rossoneri’s top scorer at one point last season, despite being a defender, with six goals to his name by January.

Hernandez excels at completing progressive runs (dribbles where the ball travels at least 10 metres up the park) and attempts them regularly; of the 3.9 dribbles per 90 he averaged last term, 2.9 of them were progressive.

This season, those stats have dropped a little – he attempts 3.3 dribbles per game with 2.4 of them progressive – but generally speaking, when he embarks on a run, the chances are he’ll carry the ball a significant way up the park. He can be a little lax defensively at times but there is no doubting his quality in possession.

Gianluigi Donnarumma

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The Italian goalkeeper became a regular starter for Milan at the age of 16 and given how long he has been a fixture at the San Siro – he has played over 200 games and has been capped 20 times for the national team – it’s incredible to think he is only 21 years old, barely an infant compared to most goalies.

At times throughout his career he’s been guilty of the odd clanger here or there but he has been in superb form for Pioli this season. He’s faced 13 shots so far in Serie A this term and saved 12, with Romelu Lukaku the only player to have found a way past him in Italy.

A look at Donnarumma’s expected goals conceded (xGC) shows just how good the shot-stopper has been this campaign. Teams have created good chances against him this season only to be denied by the young prodigy. He kept a clean sheet against Bologna with an xGC of 1.39 and in the derby, he had an xGC of 2.8 but only shipped one. It’s a similar story at international level, where Donnarumma kept a clean sheet against the Netherlands with an xGC of 2.33.

What this shows us is that Donnarumma is saving shots – and lots of them – that based on probability, he really shouldn’t be. There are two possible explanations – either he is incredibly lucky, or he is simply an excellent goalkeeper. Unfortunately for Neil Lennon, it is the latter which is true.