The Champions League reality facing Celtic that critics will conveniently forget

By John McGinley

July 10, 2022

It can’t be overstated how difficult it will be for Celtic to qualify from their upcoming UEFA Champions League group into the knockout stages of the competition.

Ange Postecoglou’s team enter the draw on August 25th as a pot four outfit, meaning they are regarded as one of the eight weakest sides in the competition.

Not only does that guarantee one of the toughest possible draws, but the last few editions of UEFA’s showpiece event suggest the odds are stacked against us.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

In the following competitions since Celtic were last in the tournament back in 2017/18, 32 pot four teams have attempted to make the knockout stage and only three have been successful – RB Leipzig, Gladbach and Atalanta.

It’s hardly a list of small no-hopers from the other 29 either – teams such as Inter Milan, AC Milan, Galatasaray and Marseille have all entered the competition as bottom seeds, only to be knocked out.

If you’re thinking it looks rosier with regards to finishing third and dropping in the Europa League, you’d be right, but perhaps not to the encouraging extent you were hoping for.

Only a further six of the 32 pot four teams over the last four years have managed to make it into the secondary competition from the Champions League.

The glitz and glamour of the upcoming group stage is exciting for Celtic fans but there’s a reality here we can’t forget – because the club’s critics certainly will.

I’m guessing none of this context will be taken into account amongst media outlets and rival supporters should the Bhoys end up bottom of the group.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m hoping we can do well. The last people to give up on progress will be Ange Postecoglou and his squad. They’ll attack this with everything they have.

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

If Celtic perform to their true capabilities and we get the right kind of draw, finishing third should be seen as a big, achievable target.

Let’s not forget we also finished third from pot four back in 2017, the year before the time period discussed above.

But set your expectations at a reasonable level. This isn’t the same era as the one Gordon Strachan’s and Neil Lennon’s teams found joy in. It’s not even the same landscape as our last entry under Brendan Rodgers.

Even if we go on to make the signings we need to make this summer, navigating the group stages is still a mammoth task that recent history suggests will go against us.

In other news, Joe Ledley makes class Celtic prediction that will be tough for rivals to hear.