UEFA have announced some changes to the away goals rule which could affect Celtic [The Sun].
The governing body for European football, according to the Sun, will announce that while the away goals rule will still apply within 90 minutes, extra-time will be altered. Essentially, if a match goes to extra time, goals will have the same value, regardless of the venue.
These changes are for all three of UEFA’s club tournaments, with the addition of the Europa Conference League, which begins in 21-22.
This could have real ramifications for Celtic if they land tricky opponents en route to the Champions League. This summer, the Bhoys will not be using the ‘Champions’ Route’ to Europe’s biggest tournament. Instead, Celtic may have to navigate significant obstacles in order to return to the top table of European football.
In a different scenario, in which Celtic make the Europa League, knock-out fixtures would not be decided on away goals, provided they don’t go to extra time. That’s not a situation Celtic have faced in recent years. Valencia beat us 3-0 on aggregate in 2019 [BBC], while Copenhagen won 4-2 on aggregate last year [BBC].
This is part of a number of changes to be implemented by UEFA. The Champions League looks likely to have the most radical overhaul. By 2024, 36 teams could play in a league format, with knock-out rounds after [iNews].
Celtic watch on as European landscape changes, hard to see why UEFA are changing this rule in particular
The away goals rule has been called into question during Covid-19. A number of fixtures have had to be played in neutral grounds. Equally, without supporters, it’s hard to argue there’s a significant “home” advantage in knock-out football. Yet, UEFA seem keen to press ahead.
Perhaps it is unfair that away goals should count in extra-time of latter stage ties. However, these are very obviously pandemic-era rules for a future in which, hopefully, tournaments can return to some kind of normality.
As for Celtic? We’ve managed to avoid away goal heartbreak over recent seasons. If anything, it’s a mild comfort. A “just in case” measure that might well help us.
The return to two-leg qualifiers should hypothetically help, too. Perhaps if Celtic had another crack at Ferencvaros, this season could’ve been vastly different.