The Europa League has changed a lot since Celtic were last in it
It may only be the best part of eight months since Celtic played in the Europa League, but the competition has changed a lot in that time.
The Hoops had a wretched time of it in Group H last term, finishing bottom with four points, despite being the highest seeded side in the section.
But we won’t have to worry about that pot one seeding this time round.
Celtic are more likely to find themselves in pot two, or even pot three, should we navigate two qualifying rounds against stern opposition.
After our second placed finish in the Premiership last season, we won’t be part of the ‘Champions Route’ that has served us well in recent years.
There will be no Suduva, no Sarajevo, no Riga. This year we’ll be up against sides from more high profile leagues.
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The Europa League has become even tougher for Celtic
Win two qualifying ties in a row, the first of which is against FK Jablonec, and we’ll find ourselves in the new 32-team group stage.
16 teams have been cut off from the Europa League, and effectively thrown into the new Conference League.
This means that the Europa League group stage is stronger than ever before.
The eight group winners earn straight passage through to the last 16, with second place playing off against the Champions League drop-outs for the other eight places.
Third place drops into the Conference League, while fourth gets to avoid any more European fixtures for the rest of the season.
Last night’s defeat in Denmark was hugely disappointing, but the reality is that Champions League qualification was always going to be a real tall order.
Europa League group stage qualification would be viewed as a pretty decent success now.
Ange and his players can still earn that, they’re just going to have to do it the hard way.
And anyway, the final of this year’s competition is in Seville. It’d be rude not to.