UEFA rebranded and restructured the competition over the years but as Celtic head into the last 32 of the competition looking to get to the last 16 for the first time in 16 years!
Yes, a whopping 16 years. Of course, we’ve qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League in this time but we’ve not managed any further in this competition.
It was the season after Seville – Celtic fell short against Porto but this team were still hungry for European success. Who would we draw in the last 32 but the mighty Barcelona!
Over those two legs we would win 1-0; an Alan Thompson goal at Celtic Park followed by a goalkeeping masterclass by a fresh faced David Marshall thrust into the spotlight put Celtic through to the last 16. We thought we had cracked it.
Barcelona had been put to the sword and we would head into the last 16 with a swagger.
Celtic were put up against Villarreal, a Spanish side many had not paid attention to at the time but it was the beginnings of the wonderful side they had between 2005-10. Having beat Barcelona, we were dreaming of another final. However, this Villareal side were having none of it. Celtic could only manage a draw at Celtic Park and in the away leg got beat 2-0 convincingly by a Spanish side full of confidence.
Celtic went into that game as favourites and it all went pear shaped. As we go into the last 32 favourites over Copenhagen, we should take nothing for granted.
We have to earn the right to play and do enough over the two legs to make sure this will be the first time in 16 years that we make the las 16.