The UEFA Europa League group stages comes to a close on Thursday night with Celtic heading to CFR Cluj for yet another tussle with Dan Petrescu’s side.
Both sides have managed a win over the other this season, whilst their opening game was a draw in Romania back in August. That’s as competitive as things get, however, with Celtic having already qualified for the last-32.
For some, this game will always be a dead-rubber. You won’t convince everyone that there’s anything to truly play for in Romania tomorrow. You can’t blame them either. This, as it stands, is a game we could do without considering we have a massive couple of weeks coming up domestically.
However, there are a couple of club firsts we could complete with a victory in Cluj. For both, there’s no certainty we’ll have a chance to do either anytime soon if we don’t on Thursday.
The first one being the fact that the club has never managed to go through a group stage campaign without defeat. This one is quite simply an incredible achievement from Celtic if we get it over the line.
Have never come close to an unbeaten group
In our five Europa League group stage campaigns before this, we have always managed to lose at least two games of football. In our 10 Champions League group campaigns, it’s been the same story (Wiki). Goodness knows when we’ll have a chance to ever manage a full group stage unbeaten. It’s certainly worth battling for.
The second, meanwhile, is the fact that we have never managed to win in Romania despite visiting on three occasions. Our recent trip to Cluj in August was the latest unsuccessful attempt to leave the country with a victory.
Ronny Deila’s Celtic also went over to face Astra Giurgiu and could only manage a 1-1 draw back in 2014. However, our first ever visit to Romania came all the way back in the season of 1980-81. A UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup battle with Poli Timisoara saw Celtic lose out 1-0 away from home.
So as things stand, three points in Cluj would scratch Romania from our winless list. We’ve already done the same with Italy this season, and that was a tremendous feeling for the supporters.
Therefore, there are reasons to go over to Cluj and give it a good go to try and get the win. Whenever there’s a genuine opportunity to do some club firsts in Europe, it’s always worth doing. Hopefully, come kick-off, the players have the same appetite for the game that their opponents certainly will.