Whilst winning the Champions League is fairytale stuff, the Europa League is not totally unrealistic. That doesn’t mean it is easier, but it can be achieved by more prudently run clubs compared to the millionaires playground that the Champions League is designed for.
Money isn’t really the big issue for Celtic. It is themselves.
Yes there are some opponents that are just too financlially superior to overcome. Celtic have been smashed to a pulp by some of these teams like Barcelona and PSG in the last couple of years into the bargain.
That kind of hammering is hard to recover from. I can still feel every one of those goals in my soul.
Whilst the summer was not particularly great for Celtic, we have been playing better recently on home soil. Sadly, we haven’t been able to replicate that in the two Europa League games in Austria and Germany and even made heavy weather of the win at home to Rosenborg.
When Celtic entertain Salzburg and Leipzig at Celtic Park, they will have to put on a much better show of conviction, discipline and organisation. Because it has been largely self-inflicted errors that have been the cause of their disappointment in Europe.
This isn’t new of course. We’ve seen this before under other Celtic managers as well.
Losing goals early in European ties or conceding late on when we are winning or drawing. Do we have the correct personnel to do better?
Yes and no. We have a good squad without any real superstars.
There are some weak areas that need strengthening badly. Some players are on their last legs as well.
Brendan is culpable as well. Sometimes he has got it right and other times not so much.
The club take a prudent approach in the transfer market. This much we know and understand.
Splurging £9M on one striker was big business, but the whole team needed a bit of a facelift in general. Between January and June we will lose about half a dozen players.
Some of these players will need to be replaced. Others are just natural churn.
How do Celtic move forward though? This middle year of Brendan’s five year contract looks almost transitional.
If we are taking Europe seriously, we need better personnel, improved focus and better tactics. None of this is out with our reach.
Indeed it is imperative. We might not be able to win a European trophy, but we should be making a better attempt at being involved.
Tomorrow it is back to domestic duty. Celtic travel to Edinburgh to face Hearts in the League Cup Semi Final.
Celtic are odds on to win inn the neutral ground of Murrayfield. In light of results against Hearts over the last year, I don’t think this is a foregone conclusion.
In the Scottish Premiership Hearts sit at the top a comfortable six points ahead of Celtic and Kilmarnock. For many, this has been a surprise start by Craig Levein’s side, but they are there on merit.
They’ve lost just one game in ten played so far this season. Only Livingston can match that statistic.
Having said that, Celtic have been on a steady climb again. Europe has not been fruitful, but domestic form is taking shape again.
With several players missing from the away game to Leipzig, some will return to face Hearts. The impression most of us got from Tom Rogic and Filip Benkovic’s omissions on Thursday were that the League Cup tie was the priority fro Brendan Rodgers.
James Forrest was suspended whilst Kristoffer Ajer, Scott Brown and Leigh Griffiths were injured. With Dedryck Boyata suspended for the Hearts game and those three injured players still out, wrapping Rogic and Benkovic up on cotton wool was perhaps something that was risk assessed with the likelihood of a defeat in Germany.
So from that point of view I get it. Even if Rogic and Benkovic had played, we were still not at full strength.
For now we must limp on without our captain, key striker and up-and-coming central defender. We’ll be looking to those players bang on form to get a result at Murrayfield.
Rogic, Ntcham, Forrest and Edouard are all playing well right now. This is a team game though and we need to see more from the rest of the squad.
Scott Sinclair got a goal recently and with any luck will have spurred him on to rediscover that first season form. Lewis Morgan is pushing for more game time as is Ryan Christie.
With our captain absent for a while, Eboue Kouassi and Youssouff Mulumbu will need to fill the defensive midfield role. Callum McGregor can also play in there, but he has so much more to offer as we have seen over the previous four seasons at the club.
Defensively, Celtic have to steady the ship. It remains a major area of concern and one that Brendan has yet to resolve in over two years.
With Benkovic only here on loan, Boyata almost certain to leave in January or June, Simunovic an injury nightmare and Lustig, Gamboa and Izaguirre’s current deals ending next summer,it is hard to fathom what Celtic’s future defence is going to look like. Ralston, Tierney, Ajer and Hendry are the only defenders with any hope of a future at the club albeit with a distinct lack of collective experience.
And let’s be brutally honest. Whilst Craig Gordon is far and away our best goalkeeper, he is not getting any younger.
We’ve seen a lot of players leave in the last couple of years. There isn’t much profit left in this side and we can’t keep selling everyone.
Celtic need to start reinvesting and soon. Otherwise we will become a team in decline if we aren’t already.