Almost a week has passed since Olivier Ntcham’s impeccable last minute winner in the Stadio Olimpico downed Lazio and secured our passage to the last 32 of the Europa League.
Almost seven days have come and gone, and you still get the impression that some Celtic fans can’t believe their luck. The team have qualified from a group containing the Romanian champions and the cup winners from France and Italy – and they’ve done it with a full two games to spare.
That feeling of being in uncharted territory may have been strengthened by a UEFA article posted on Wednesday morning. The governing body put out a simple piece detailing the possible permutations on matchday five in terms of qualification. Celtic’s name was right at the top of the page, under the headline ‘Who is through to the round of 32?’
This position is an uncommon one for Celtic in UEFA competition
Our company in that regard is pretty illustrious. Manchester United, Basel, Sevilla and Espanyol are the other four sides to have secured their place in the competition after Christmas. Only ourselves and the latter weren’t top seeds in their group.
All this gushing about Celtic from various quarters takes a bit of getting used to. We’re familiar with being top of tables on the domestic front – that’s where we’ve been for virtually the last decade. But European football is a place where we’re traditionally found scrapping it out – often searching for much needed points in last gasp scenarios.
This current situation provides us with an excellent chance to top Group E and give ourselves a great chance in the last 32. If we do so, we’ll face an unseeded team and have the second leg in Glasgow. Something that has not been the case in the last decade or so.
Whatever happens in our remaining two group clashes, we will be in the first knockout round after Christmas. But given the way the group currently looks, some Celtic fans might never want this part of the competition to end.