If Ronny Deila is to end Celtic’s run of seven Europa League outings without a win, his team will have to get past the competition’s best young goalkeeper and a player benefitting from the guidance and experience of a former Manchester United coach.
Hailing from Highlands Ranch, Colorado, in the United States, Ethan Horvath may be a long way from home, but at just 20 years of age he’s already demonstrating all of the necessary attributes to carve out a long and successful career in the European game.
Brought to Molde just two years ago after catching the eye of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a string of impressive displays for club side Real Colorado, he had to wait until May of this year for his first-team debut.
But since making his bow in the Tippeligaen with the Norwegian club, the youngster has gone from strength to strength, especially during Molde’s forays into Europe.
Already capped at youth level by Team USA, Horvath may have been helpless to prevent the club dropping down from the Champions League to the Europa League earlier this term but since then he has been nothing short of phenomenal.
It started with a superb victory over Fenerbahce in Istanbul, with Horvath busy throughout as Molde upset the odds to secure a 3-1 victory, helped in no small part by a string of superb saves.
The defeat represented only a second loss in 13 home games in the competition for the Turkish side, with the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium famous for it’s intimidating atmosphere.
But even better was to come next time out in the competition against Ajax, with Horvath earning Molde a valuable point against the Dutch giants thanks to a Man of the Match display that saw him named in the UEFA Europa League team of the week.
Better yet it was a performance which garnered praise from Edwin Van Der Sar, who spoke in glowing terms about the 20-year-old in Aftenposten.
"Ethan Horvath delivered some class saves," he said. "I know a little about him through contact I have had with [Molde goalkeepers coach] Richard Hartis, who was my coach at Manchester United.
"One can see that he is ambitious and talented. He can use these matches in Europe to make his mark. Matches in the Europa League are also opportunities to show themselves to a larger audience."
Both games showcased the youngster’s superb reflexes, as well as notable athleticism, with Horvath seemingly combining the qualities of US national team goalkeeping hero Tim Howard alongside a little of the Manuel Neuer.
Confident with the ball at his feet and not afraid to act in a sweeper ‘keeper role when required, it’s astonishing to think he is only 20, with so much of his career ahead of him.
Horvath has already earned nine clean sheets in his debut season between the sticks for Molde – make it a perfect 10 against Celtic and a few more clubs across the continent could start to sit up and take notice.