WHEN Celtic were drawn in Group B of this year’s Uefa Champions League, the Scottish Champions, for the second year in a row, were thrown into the most difficult of all the groups. Last year it was Barcelona and Manchester City, this time it was if anything even tougher.
The second seeds were Qatar backed PSG, who have recently acquired the likes of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. Celtic were also faced with the prospect of competing against German giants, Bayern Munich, Group B’s top seeds. Anderlecht made up numbers and they were likely to be the one side Celtic could realistically take points from.
Celtic were, as you’d expect, pretty impressive during Champions League qualification. They beat Linfield 2-0 away and 4-0 at home. They then faced a tricky couple of games against Norwegian Champions Rosenborg and after a 0-0 at Parkhead, the Hoops pulled off a tremendous 1-0 away with James Forrest scoring the all important goal in what was a hard fought tie.
Up next were FC Astana who Celtic demolished 5-0 at Celtic Park in what was a very impressive performance.. They did lose 4-3 in the away leg but all in all it was a good qualifying campaign for Brendan Rodgers side, who achieved their aim of making it to the group stages.
What Celtic have seemed to be good at for a long time is not letting their domestic form be affected by their form in Europe and this is vital. They also have the ability of heading into their Champions League fixtures on a high due to the fact that they’re so good on the domestic front.
The reality is, nobody expected Celtic to beat PSG in their opening Champions League fixture and similarly, nobody really expected them to beat Bayern Munich either. So in that sense, they probably won’t surprise many people.
Celtic did however beat Anderlecht, in Anderlecht, convincingly, 3-0. Now this is where Celtic could really spring a surprise in the group. As things stand, Brendan Rodgers’ men are 3rd, 3 points adrift of Bayern Munich.
You would expect Celtic to be victorious once again against Anderlecht, especially at Celtic Park. The likelihood is that PSG are going to run out as group winners, possibly with a 100% record. This is reflected in bookmakers like Sportingbet having PSG 1/14 odds on favourites to win the Group B.
However, the real surprise could be if Celtic can manage to take something from Bayern on home soil in their next fixture. It could really open the group up and Celtic could make a late push to finish second. Celtic will, as usual have the backing their fans who are widely regarded as the best in the Champions League and last night won the Best Fans Award at the prestigious FIFA Football Awards in London.
One thing that Celtic have become pretty famous for under Brendan Rodgers is the fact that they haven’t lost games domestically up top this point and this is sure to give them more confidence heading into games, even against the biggest and best that Europe has to offer.
Celtic may even look at the upcoming Bayern Munich fixture and feel that they really have a free swing at it as nobody expects them to win, let alone qualify. Even picking up a point could be good enough if results go their way over the rest of the group games, as long as Celtic manage to beat Anderlecht once again.
Celtic Park was a Champions League fortress for many years and sides won’t relish having to take on Celtic there, although they all acknowledge the magnificent atmosphere.
If Celtic are to surprise us all in the Champions League this year, they need to step up to the plate next Tuesday and with their fabulous, vocal fan base behind them, anything could happen.
The Celtic fans are the best in the world and that is now official. What the team need to do is produce a result that will make world football sit up and take notice. Just like they did in 2012 when Barcelona, with Messi and all the superstars, were humbled by the Hoops.
KEVIN GRAHAM hosts another match day podcast from Hampden on Saturday featuring some of FIFA’s Best Supporters in the World.
This week’s Matchday Special saw Brendan Rodgers’ side carry a 59-match undefeated domestic run into the League Cup semi final against Neil Lennon’s Hibs.
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