Celtic legend Lambert identifies key improvement for next season's Champions League

By Dave Flanigan

November 6, 2022

Former captain Paul Lambert has backed Ange Postecoglou to take Celtic to a new level in the Champions League next season with some key additions to the squad.

Celtic were largely lauded for their performances if not their results on their return to the competition proper after a five season absence from the group stage, and fine margins were the difference between Postecoglou’s side securing knockout football in the new year and finishing bottom, as they did.

However, Lambert, who won the then-European Cup with Borussia Dortmund in 1997, believes that the Aussie could have done little more in his first bout in Europe’s premier club competition, backing the Celtic manager to make a greater impression should the Hoops return next season, should they make the necessary recruitment.

Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images

Speaking to The Daily Record, Lambert said: “Nobody can say how Ange Postecoglou wants to play – he is the manager of the club and will find ways to win games. I have no doubt that he will find ways. They could have gone to Madrid and sat in, saying we’re going to lose anyway so just try and keep the score down.

“But they had a go, they missed a penalty at 2-0, forced Courtois into a few good saves and scored a great goal. A manager should never change his belief just because of what others are saying. It’s got to be his way. He knows he’s got to get results. He knows the players the best, he knows how to play them and what their strengths are.

“Every system has a flaw. There’s not a system invented that hasn’t. Real Madrid can play 4/4/2 or 3/5/2 or 3/4/1/2. Whatever they like because great players can play any system and adapt to it. Ange has a set system with Celtic and if they manage to get a few lads in to help the current squad they will be in a stronger place.”

Lambert insists that Celtic’s experience this season will stand them in good stead for next year, with the step up in quality requiring adjustments for all of Postecoglou’s players.

He said: “This Celtic team are basically all learning this level together. They are stepping into an environment like the Bernabeu wondering what’s coming in terms of style of football because they’ve never been there before. Only after experiencing that do you learn. So if they can win the league this year and get back into the group stage then I’m sure they will be even better equipped to compete.

“That’s great because it was fine margins in so many of the games this season – they missed big chances in the two draws with Shakhtar and there were opportunities not taken in the other games too. What the manager will do is analyse the six games and work out what can make the difference. Is it another midfielder? A striker to help or a defender to help?

“Celtic can hold their heads up high for what they did in the group. There wasn’t too much wrong. You just have to take the chances when they come along at that level. I was at the Shakhtar Donetsk game the other week and even just walking up to the game there was such a good vibe. The fans believe in Ange. He has the backing of the board too. It’s all looking good.”

Though finishing with two points from Group F will disappoint even the most positive Celtic fans, it’s clear from the performances in the competition that the team are on the right track under Postecoglou.

Even with some more accurate finishing in the two games against Shakhtar Donetsk, Celtic could have at least made the Europa League knockout stage, but it wasn’t to be, and thus it becomes even more crucial that the club win the Scottish Premiership to return to the Champions League next season.

After yesterday’s dramatic win over Dundee United, things are looking rosy in that regard, and it’ll be up to Postecoglou to make sure the team remain focussed on their return from the World Cup in December.

In other news: Former Celtic misfit Ciftci signs for 2nd tier Greek side