After a two-year absence, Scotland once again has a representative amongst Europe’s elite in the Champions League group stages.
It was a much tougher job than expected for Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic side, as they took on Hapoel Beer Sheva in the final qualification round. But despite a late rally by the Israeli side, Celtic squeezed through 5-4 on aggregate.
The ‘Bhoys’ success has had a huge financial impact on Scottish football with each of the other top-flight clubs benefiting from a figure around the £200k mark. Not to mention the £25m heading up ‘The Celtic Way’.
The group Celtic have been landed with is maybe not the best in terms of progression into the last 16, but it is certainly full of glamour. Borussia Monchengladbach, Manchester City and Barcelona are all sure to provide a stern test for Rodgers’ side.
But let’s not write the Hoops off just yet. With the atmosphere created on a European night at ‘Paradise’ anything can happen. You only have to go back four years to the memorable November evening when Tony Watt slotted past Victor Valdes to send the green half of Glasgow wild.
Much has changed since that famous victory against Barcelona, with Neil Lennon and Ronny Deila both having moved on since then. But despite these recent changes there now seems to be a real buzz around Celtic Park that has been missing in the past few seasons, perhaps a repeat of 1967 is on the cards!
Undefeated in the league and having secured their place in European football’s aristocracy, it is clear to see that the Celtic players are firm believers in the style of football brought in by Brendan Rodgers.
Taking a closer look at Celtic’s opponents, Barcelona are obviously no strangers to Celtic Park. The teams have locked horns on ten occasions in the Champions League, with Celtic winning twice. The Spanish giants have won the Champions League five times, most recently in 2015, beating Juventus in Berlin.
Manchester City made their debut in the Champions League (formally known as the European Cup) during the 1968-69 season. But since then they have only been involved in the Champions League four times and have never reached the final of the competition. Their best result in the tournament was when they played Real Madrid in the 2015-16 semi final.
Finally, Borussia Monchengladbach are maybe not the most well known team hailing from Germany, but they are without doubt a force to be reckoned with. Finishing fourth in last years Bundesliga, Gladbach are currently going through one of the most successful periods in their history. The club reached the European Cup final in 1977, only to be defeated by Bob Paisley’s Liverpool.
Scotland without doubt needs a team in the latter stages of the Champions League as it ultimately helps to display our country’s game in a positive light. The Scottish game can sometimes be downgraded when compared to other countries in Europe, but let’s hope Celtic do our country proud on their European expedition.
Blog by Aidan Smith for 360 Sports Consultancy