The end of the season is fast approaching and it’s been another big year for Celtic, who have won the Scottish Premier League title again this year, for the 8th season in a row.
The Rangers were playing catch up and even as far back as February, their boss was conceding defeat. Gerrard’s side went on a decent winning run after losing at Celtic Park at the end of March but even with Celtic dropping some points in three drawn matches, the league was won the week before Sunday’s meeting at Ibrox, which effectively became a Dead Rubber.
Given the club’s achievements this season – the League Cup was retained in December and the Scottish Cup final awaits on 25 May when an incredible Treble Treble can be secured, naturally, they should well be thinking about succeeding at the next level, on the European stage. The time is coming for Celtic to step up for the Champions League.
Life in the Champions League
The club are no strangers to European club competition and have made 33 appearances in this prestigious tournament since its re-branding as the Champions League. Celtic are of course former winners of the European Cup (1967) and also reached the final in 1970.
Celtic have faced some big clubs in the group stage, such as Paris St Germain, in 2017, which was one of the heaviest home defeats they’ve ever experienced: 5–0; and Barcelona, which ended in a brutal seven goal drubbing, another result Celtic fans side would much rather forget. The team also made it to the final of the UEFA cup in 2003, but a goal in extra from opponents FC Porto broke Celtic hearts and saw the Portuguese team lift the trophy.
It’s not all been tears, though. Celtic have had some magical moments. In 2006, they dished out a 3–0 beating at home to Portuguese giants Benfica, in the group stage. Ten years later, in 2016, they also gave fans of Belgian club RC Anderlecht a miserable night in 2006 with a 0–3 away win over the club in the group stage.
They’ve made it to the knockout stages in the tournament itself, so they’re perfectly capable of going all the way If you’re into football betting and have been following Celtic and it’s fine form this season, 2019/2020 could be the season that everything goes right for the club in Europe and persuades you to lay down your money.
How can Celtic make it happen?
Neil Lennon replaced Brendan Rodgers in late February and since then the team went on a decent unbeaten run with 8 wins and 3 draws before the Dead Rubber defeat at Ibrox on Sunday. If Lenny sticks around for the long term — and there is plenty to suggest that he is planning to, he already has some changes in mind which could give Celtic a realistic chance of experiencing some success in the Champions League. The club has a prolific record under the Northern Irishman and the fans may start to dream of nights like November 2012 when Neil Lennon led Celtic to a brilliant win over the mighty Barcelona in the Champions League. So it can be done and Neil Lennon can do it!
If Lennon is staying on, he may or not be taking the advice of his predecessor. In 2018, after the club lost 3–2 on aggregate to Greek club Athens and failed to qualify for the Champions League group stage, Rodgers spoke to the media about how Celtic should have added to the team to strengthen it. He referenced his previous club, Liverpool, and how they had reached the Champions League final and invested their money to make the club stronger. At the time of his comments, there were rumours of unrest between Rodgers and the Celtic board following the club’s failure to make one or two target signings, notably John McGinn, who went to Aston Villa instead, won their Player of the Year award and is now on the verge of a place in the Premier League, having defeated West Brom in the Play-off semi-final.
The rumours about Lennon aren’t the only ones doing the rounds where Celtic is concerned. Celtic has also been named as one of the clubs that might be looking to sign up Livingston keeper Liam Kelly in the summer. That said, the Livingston manager Gary Holt has said he’s not heard anything from any clubs and has also stated that Livingston is in talks with Kelly to extend his contract. Holt is keen to hold on to his shot-stopper and has publicly advised him to consider his options carefully, warning that he needs to be at a club where he’ll get a regular game rather than be in a no.2 spot and competing for a no.1 place.
The future is looking bright for Celtic. The Bhoys are just about to get both hands on the Scottish Premiership title on Sunday when it’s Trophy Day at Celtic Park and have a chance to win a Treble Treble at the end of the month when they meet Hearts in the Scottish Cup final. To end the season on a high would give them that push to keep fighting for a place on the European stage. Let’s hope that will be the case and happy Champions League times are ahead.