Liverpool have only failed to win three of their past 21 matches – but Napoli have accounted for two of those. In a roundabout way, it must make some members of the Celtic support very pleased.
Jurgen Klopp’s men were held 1-1 by the Serie A outfit at Anfield last night, to compound a 2-0 defeat in Naples in September. Given that the Italian side currently sit 7th in their league – seven points behind Lazio – it puts our mammoth Europa League achievement into a little bit of context.
While the European champions could only muster one point from six against the 7th best team currently in Italy, the indomitable Manchester City took four from six against 6th placed Atalanta. All of that pales into insignificance when you compare it to Neil Lennon’s Celtic, who took six from six against the 3rd placed Lazio.
Celtic aren’t a million miles away from the likes of Liverpool
It’s a relatively small detail in the grand scheme of things. Both Liverpool and City are likely to make it through to the last 16 of the Champions League – much like we have progressed in Europe’s second competition.
It does, nonetheless, show that Celtic aren’t too far behind in European competition. Much is often made about the gulf in quality between the Champions League and Europa League. The truth is that Celtic’s performances this season would have earned us a good points tally in any CL group.
Take Manchester City’s group for example. Pep Guardiola’s men are joined by Atalanta, Dinamo Zagreb and Shakhtar Donetsk. While those latter three are all capable, can we really say they’re any better than the teams in our Europa League section? Probably not.
In Lennon’s last season in the Europa League he took six points from a group containing Atletico Madrid, Udinese and Rennes. A year later and we were qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League after beating Barcelona and Spartak Moscow (twice).
Many want to talk up the gulf in quality. The truth is that Celtic aren’t very far away from the top table of European football. Even if we’re not quite there yet.