The 4 UCL results Celtic need to all but guarantee automatic qualification chance
With so much build-up to this weekend’s Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers at Hampden, you could be forgiven for forgetting the importance of tonight’s UCL games to Celtic.
Many believe that Celtic will qualify directly for the Champions League group stages next season if they win the league. But that isn’t actually certain just yet. Indeed, that will only happen if the club that wins the competition this year also qualifies via their league position.
As things stand, there are still a few clubs in the competition who could threaten that. Benfica, Villarreal, and Atletico Madrid look unlikely to secure automatic UCL spots. Chelsea are also still under some threat despite finishing third.
But if all 4 of those clubs are bundled out of the UCL, it all but guarantees Celtic will indeed qualify automatically if we wrap up the league title.
Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Manchester City, and Liverpool make up the other 4 teams still remaining in the competition. Mathematically, they can all still drop out of their respective top 4 slots domestically, but the chances of that are ridiculously low. For example, they would likely have to lose the vast majority of their final domestic fixtures. That’s not happening.
And fortunately for Celtic, 3 of the 4 clubs mentioned above are in a good place this week. Liverpool are 3-1 up on Benfica after their first-leg win in Portugal last week. Real Madrid, meanwhile, boast the same scoreline over Chelsea ahead of their second leg at the Bernabeau. Man City have a tougher task away to Atletico but still hold a 1-0 lead.
Celtic well placed for guaranteed entry next season
The only potential danger match is Bayern Munich against Villarreal. The Bundesliga champions are currently 1-0 down after a shock defeat in Spain last week. Granted, Munich are still expected to turn the tie around comfortably tonight, but you never know.
It’s very conceivable that all 4 teams who threaten Celtic’s automatic pass for next season are knocked out this week.
Effectively, we’re looking for Liverpool, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and Man City to complete the job tonight and tomorrow. So long as that’s the contingent for the semi-final stage, Celtic effectively just need to wrap up the title and the UCL spot will be ours.
That particular set of results would certainly ease nerves for Hoops fans. The last thing we want is to have to be worrying about whether another Euro club will take our UCL spot.
First up tonight is Bayern vs Villarreal and Real Madrid vs Chelsea. Liverpool will then tackle Benfica tomorrow whilst Man City face Atletico.
Should Celtic qualify directly for the groups, it would be the first time they’ll have done so since 2008/09 under Gordon Strachan.