Having started 2019 in impeccably blistering domestic form, Valencia came to Celtic Park for the first leg of the last 32 tie of the Europa League. There was confidence amongst the support that Celtic could get a result.
The reality of European football can put all of your domestic achievements in perspective rather quickly. And despite starting and finishing the game somewhat strong, Valencia all but put Celtic’s European hopes to bed with two goals.
Brendan remained buoyant that Celtic could still bounce back but the likelihood of that is slim to none. Our away record in Europe does not make for good reading so this would indeed be a masterstroke or stroke of luck if the odds were beaten.
As it is, the odds of beating Valencia at Celtic Park were already stacked against us. Admittedly, we did shoot ourselves in the foot (again) and when things were clearly not working on the park we failed to change it in a timely manner (again).
Next up was a late afternoon meeting in Kilmarnock last Sunday. Steve Clarke’s side have given us problems in the past and the media were already piling the pressure on Celtic as to whether they would have a European hangover.
I mean, as if this story hasn’t been used countless times already. Yes, it is more likely that after facing a European side that Celtic may not be at their best for the next domestic opponent.
That’s because the opponents are generally way above the standard of anything else Scotland can produce (other than Celtic), long distance travel is often involved and usually the domestic side we are facing hasn’t had European football to contend with. So it’s a kind of no brainer that Celtic might suffer after over-exerting themselves midweek.
By comparison, European football had a similar effect on our friends over at Ibrox. In eleven European games played, both teams had similar post-European results.
Celtic W7 D1 L3
Rangers W7 D2 L2
This isn’t some new phenomena. It is a likely risk which few in Scottish football experience.
In the Scottish Premiership, three out of four of Celtic’s defeats and one out of their three draws followed European football. Europe has had the greatest impact on the club’s league position.
The one remaining defeat and two draws have occurred outside of this scenario though. These results followed an international break, the League Cup final and a midweek seven goal thriller away to in Aberdeen.
Again, is it likely to drop points or lose a game following a major event? Of course it is, but to suggest Celtic suffer from a hangover when no other team does is quite frankly laughable, particularly when Celtic are generally the only team from Scotland to have been flying the flag in Europe regularly.
When Celtic took to the field against Kilmarnock last Sunday, it did look like it was heading for a draw. However, Celtic didn’t give up and Scott Brown was credited with scoring the match winner and a second yellow card.
It was a silly yellow card, but I saw it coming. The question I would like to know is would he still have been booked if the fans hadn’t run onto the grass?
That was Broony’s second goal of the season. It was also back-to-back domestic goals for the club captain.
The last time he managed that was in May 2015 against Dundee and Aberdeen. That new contract has certainly refocused his Celtic career, having not scored almost two years to the day of his last goal for the club in February 2017.
I’d like to see him put in a good performance this evening in Valencia. We all know this game is a dead rubber, but the players can at least show us some spirit because the fans deserve it, especially the travelling ones.
The last 32 will be the terminus for Celtic’s European adventures once again. This is and will continue to be our stop until we approach these games correctly.
Buying more expensive players isn’t necessarily the answer or within our means as a club. Getting it right first time against organised opponents is.
Setting out your stall correctly, cutting out mistakes and deploying the right tactics is a good start. Valencia’s starting eleven had a market value of over £140M with nearly £60M on the bench.
In hindsight there’s a lot Brendan and the Bhoys could have done to play better and get a result without having to match them financially. Money isn’t always the answer though. it’s just a measure of the market a team like Valencia operate in.
Our team will require further surgery in the summer. Our coaching team also have much to work out if any progress is to be made in Europe at all.
Indeed the question some might already be asking is can Brendan take us any further in Europe? We have our limitations, but has this European tour gone as far as it can?
I actually think we can do better. A lot better.
Tonight though we will close the door on the European stage until July’s qualifiers come around again. Then it’s game on as we turn out attention to a treble-treble.