When Celtic got knocked out of the second round of UEFA Champions League qualifying last year against FC Midtjylland, not many would have thought that they would directly qualify for the group stage of the competition the following season. The situation of the squad was not great at that point. They had finished the previous season trophyless and several key players like Odsonne Edouard, Kris Ajer, Ryan Christie and others had departed in the summer.
Ange Postecoglou had a mountain to climb to say the least. Almost one year on though, it is safe to say that he did manage to climb it.
It was a remarkable job to say the least, rebuilding the entire squad, going through a transitional season and winning the Premiership and League Cup double all in the same campaign. The manager as well as the players, many of whom have joined over the previous two transfer windows, deserve immense credit.
Now, they have the base built for a successful future and Champions League football to look forward to. And Martin O’Neill believes that there is no reason that Celtic cannot succeed in the competition. As reported by The Times (via 67 Hail Hail), he said:
“I believe that Celtic’s problems in Europe this season can be addressed. Going straight into the group stage of the Champions League will be a massive help in every respect, particularly on the financial side, because I think they probably need to strengthen the playing side if they’re going to get out of their group.
“That’s very difficult in itself but there’s absolutely no doubt that Celtic can improve in Europe. Rangers have given them the lead this year so why can’t Celtic do it too? Now that Celtic have got things up and running, the manager has got control of the football side of things and is doing really well there’s no reason why they can’t contest it.
“The players have good belief now. I absolutely accept that stepping into the Champions League is something else — and it really is something else. Even if you’re playing at home with 60,000 people roaring you on, it’s still difficult.
“He will be a fella who will relish the challenges in Europe now that he has got something under his belt, as it were. When he was approaching this year I’m sure that, deep down, he thought: ‘Domestically, this is what I want to do, try and be strong and Europe will follow’. He now has that opportunity.”
O’Neill makes Champions League claim about Celtic
Next season will be Postecoglou’s first taste of Europe’s elite competition and also the first time in many years that Celtic have been able to make the group stage.
Thus, when that Champions League anthem hits, one can expect Celtic Park to be rocking. The club were not brilliant in Europe last season but will hopefully improve next time around with more experience under their belt and a year of experience, playing together.
The club also must look towards the success that the Rangers had in Europe this season, reaching the Europa League final, to get some extra motivation if they need it.
This article was originally posted here