Celtic need to stop letting fear halt their European progress

By David Walton

October 22, 2018

Celtic’s Europa League fear is something that desperately needs rectified if they’re to truly progress.

This goes back for years, but the latest installment came in the 3-1 loss at Red Bull Salzburg. Celtic pitched up to that one with all of the noise coming out from the club about how our chances are limited.

Apparently, Celtic weren’t supposed to compete with a side who were hardly built with mega-money. Red Bull’s home record stood at two years without a defeat. That was certainly impressive, but Celtic should’ve had confidence in their own ability to break it.

Instead, the Hoops succumbed to a painful defeat that had Red Bull all over them. It was a disaster in every sense of the word.

Red Bull Salzburg dominated Celtic on a night to forget in Austria (TF-Images/Getty Images)

Even as Odsonne Edouard fired Celtic into an early lead, it still felt ominous. Red Bull were being invited onto Celtic at every opportunity, with Brendan Rodgers’ side sitting far too deep. That kind of tactic is fine against PSG and Barcelona, but against Red Bull Salzburg?

Why do Celtic have such a fear-factor when playing any side with a little bit of European pedigree. Yes, Celtic were expected to lose in Austria. Yes, Celtic were expected to have less of the ball. The way they played the game, however, there was such a strong smell of fear whenever Red Bull strolled forward. Other than Youssuf Mulumbu, there were no outstanding performers.

This is the kind of fear that’s been going back for years. Celtic have traveled to winnable places such as Dinamo Zagreb, Astra Giurgiu, Zenit, and Borussia Monchengladbach. None of those recent away days ended in a victory. Legia Warsaw and Maribor are a couple of other embarrassing examples.

A lengthy list

The list could probably go on and on, but the fact is that Celtic have remained fearful of any half-decent European side for years away from home. There’s barely been any belief in the Hoops that they can go to these venues and win, and it shows in the performances.

That’s not to say there haven’t been some promising shoots in recent years. Anderlecht and Rosenborg were both good away displays that saw Celtic take victories.

A big win in Anderlecht is Celtic’s most memorable away night for several years (Vincent Van Doornick /Isosport/Getty Images)

But, despite those wins, performances such as those have been far too rare.

Celtic will pitch up at Red Bull Leipzig this week in the Europa League. The Hoops, however, will arrive there with some more fear and trepidation about what Red Bull have to throw at them. At the same time, Celtic are forgetting how good a team they can be. The Hoops can go to Germany and have their fair share of both possession and chances, but they have to start believing in it.

It’s time for the Celtic players to step up away from home in Europe. If fear continues to play a big part, however, then qualification out of this group can be waved away.