What success in the Champions League would look like for Celtic after 5-year absence

By David Walton

June 9, 2022

Ahead of our return to the Champions League next season, many fans will have differing opinions on what success would actually look like for Celtic.

Opinions will differ from winning a single game to qualifying for the last-16. Given our recent Euro disappointments, you can understand why some would simply be aiming for the former.

Excitement will soon start cranking up for the competition in any case, especially with the UCL draw taking place as soon as August 25th [UEFA]. So what would truly represent genuine success at Europe’s top table for the Hoops in 2022/23?

Photo by Harold Cunningham – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

Firstly, qualification to the last-16 will hardly be a requirement for a decent campaign. Look at the teams we could face in Pot 2 for example. The likes of Liverpool, Chelsea, and Barcelona sit there. As for pot 3? Borussia Dortmund, Napoli, and Inter Milan lie in wait to name a few. Of course, we want to compete, but we must do so with some realism in our expectation levels.

Celtic managed as many as 3 group stage wins after qualifying for the Europa League last season. However, one of our defeats was a 4-0 mauling at home to Bayer Leverkusen. We showed the pros and cons of what we can be all about on the European stage.

To suggest that we stop leaking goals is an almost impossible task too. Especially against the quality of teams we’re going to be up against and Ange’s approach likely remaining similar. But we also don’t want any more Celtic Park drubbings in front of a hopeful and excited support. It doesn’t matter if it’s Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, or Juventus who come to Glasgow. We simply want to see ourselves be competitive.

Celtic need to target some UCL wins to announce themselves

Celtic’s last entry into the competition came under Brendan Rodgers during the 2017/18 campaign. We only managed to win one match against Anderlecht whilst losing 5 and qualifying for the Europa League last-32. At the time, it was seen as a success because we bagged third spot.

Ange has already said that he wants to make an impact in the competition and that Celtic won’t just make up the numbers [Optus Sport]. And depending on the group, getting a couple of wins under our belt would have to be considered essential. Especially if the club invests further this summer to add to the already settled squad we currently have.

Just because we’re the 4th seeds in our group doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be making some form of impact. We’ve been told to expect this Celtic side to be bigger and better next season. And we already showed we can land some blows on decent European sides under Ange.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Getting 3rd place in the group would have to be considered successful however we get it. Alternatively, it’s difficult to portray finishing 4th as being a good effort. But make no mistake, if we were to secure 6 points and still end up bottom, fans wouldn’t be too disappointed so long as we remained competitive in our other games.

Another key target has to be to improve our results at Celtic Park. Winning 2 of our 3 games in the Europa last season was decent, but we were mauled by Leverkusen and soundly beaten by Bodo/Glimt in the Conference League. These results just aren’t acceptable for a club of our stature on the European stage. Not with the home reputation we have. Getting some points at Parkhead and stopping it from being a walkover for teams needs to be a big goal of ours next year.

It’s important to remember that for most of these players it’ll be their first experience of the UCL. So expectations, given the difficulty of the opposition, need to be realistic. This year will be a big learning experience for so many in the Celtic squad.

But overall being competitive, improving home form, and making a positive impression have to be the main goals here.

In other news, Celtic’s final chance to cash in on Christopher Jullien and where he could end up