Five reasons why Celtic must top their Europa League group
Celtic may have completed the job in terms of qualifying for the last 32 of the Europa League – but there is still something to play for in their remaining two group stage matches.
Neil Lennon’s men are yet to be assured of top spot in Group E but will achieve that feat if they can take four points from their remaining two matches. The Bhoys could do it with fewer points, depending on Cluj’s result in Rome, and it’s actually pretty important that they do finish off the job they started. Here’s why.
More money is on offer
Official UEFA figures tell us that Celtic will earn themselves approximately £488,000 for each group win they notch. That means that there’s almost £1million up for grabs. And that’s not including the bonus for topping the group.
Lennon’s side will bank themselves around £850,000 if they can top the group while second place will see them pick up half of that amount.
So that’s nearly £2million that the team can still earn.
Celtic can help out both themselves, and Scotland, by winning their last two games. There are still coefficient points up for grabs despite the matches not mattering in terms of qualification.
An extra win or two could be the difference between us having to play four or three rounds of Champions League qualifiers in future years.
Home advantage in the second leg
One of the perks topping the group is that you get to have the home leg up second in the round of 32. In previous years, we have had to venture to the likes of Zenit, Inter Milan and Valencia for the return leg.
Having a rocking Celtic Park to fall back on in the event of a poor first leg result would be a welcome change.
Last 32 opposition
There’s also the small matter of who we could face in the round of 32. Winning the group means that we are likely to avoid some of the bigger hitters in the competition’s first knockout round.
For example, the likes of Sevilla and Arsenal would be avoided as well as the top Champions League sides dropping down. Topping the group would mean that we could face the likes of APOEL, Ludogorets or Alkmaar.
Ending the Cluj saga on top
Given the way we’ve gone about our task in the Europa League, it’s easy to forget that we were dumped out of the Champions League in acrimonious circumstances.
The Cluj defeat will still rankle with Lennon and his players. Topping the group ahead of Dan Petrescu’s men would set the record straight once and for all.