At the halfway stage, Celtic currently sit bottom of Champions League group F.
Upon their return to Europe’s premier club competition, the Hoops haven’t endured the best start although as we will discuss, there should still be a sense of optimism as we enter the second half of the group stage.
What we’ve learned so far
Celtic have played three times so far in the Champions League. A 3-0 loss at home to Real Madrid was disappointing as was a 1-1 draw in Poland against Shakhtar Donetsk. Away in Germany versus RB Leipzig, the Hoops were beaten by three goals to one however from all of these games, there were a lot of positives to take but also some key learning points. Here are just a few.
Chances need to be taken
At Champions League level, it is pivotal chances are taken.
Despite this necessity, it is something Celtic have failed to do thus far in the group stage with the Hoops having missed countless opportunities which had they taken, would’ve put them in a much more useful predicament than they currently are.
One wonders what could’ve happened at Celtic Park had Liel Abada kept his composure in the early stages or if Callum McGregor’s powerful effort from the edge of the box went in via the post rather than flash across the goal line.
All in all, though, Ange Postecoglou’s team were undone by the sheer quality of Real that evening however against Shakhtar Donetsk, the painful consequences of missing chances were clear.
In Warsaw, Giorgos Giakoumakis and Daizen Maeda missed what were frank sitters in the closing stages and it is fair to say if just one of said chances were taken, Celtic would’ve returned to Glasgow from what was seen as an arduous away venue with three colossal points however this was not the case.
There were also quite a few significant opportunities passed up by the Scottish champions in Leipzig however that night was marred by something we will now go on to discuss – stupid mistakes.
Errors will be clinically punished at this level
In Europe’s premier club competition, if there is one lapse of concentration, you will be exploited.
This is certainly the case with Celtic and it could be argued three of the seven goals the Hoops have conceded in the Champions League this season have been through faults of their own.
There was nothing that could be done about the manner of the strikes conceded against Real Madrid however in Poland, Callum McGregor should’ve done better in a 50/50 in midfield before Mykhaylo Mudryk was played through on goal.
Then in Germany, a loose touch from the captain on the edge of the opposition penalty area allowed RB Leipzig to clinically counter attack and go one up on the night.
The errors we’ve talked about thus far have got even more negligent as we’ve went on although perhaps the worst mistake made by Celtic in group F up to this point came courtesy of Joe Hart.
Moments after his team got a colossal let off through the chopping off of Dominik Szoboszlai’s curved effort into the bottom corner, the English ‘keeper was overly eager to get play started again.
He hoped to find Greg Taylor when passing out from the back although he presented the ball to the feet of the aforementioned Hungarian who, in turn, set up Andre Silva who netted with conviction.
After receiving a stark warning sign moments prior, Hart, for such an experienced head that he is, made a hugely foolish error.
As spoke of, these types of mistakes will be brutally punished in the Champions League and going forward, it is essential Celtic cut them out.
Now that we’ve examined what Celtic have done wrong in the Champions League thus far, let’s take a more positive outlook and inspect some of the plus points from the Hoops’ three group F matches.
Chances are being created
Although they may not be scoring, Celtic are still manufacturing a wealth of goalscoring opportunities for themselves in this season’s Champions League.
According to FotMob, in their three group games so far, the Hoops have had a total of 38 shots on goal (of which 15 have been on target) and created an xG (expected goals) of 3.67.
These figures suggest an underperformance in goalscoring from Ange Postecoglou’s men yet the fact they’re prevailing to create is still constructive.
The Bhoys are competing
The last time Celtic played in the Champions League was in the 2017/18 season. They only mustered three points throughout the whole of the group stage that campaign and although they’ve only got a solitary point on the board as we speak, the Hoops have not looked out of place in the three games they’ve partook so far.
Real Madrid were spooked in Glasgow before they turned on the style meanwhile the match against Shakhtar in Poland was one of missed chances. One wonders what would’ve happened away at Leipzig had Joe Hart not played the ball straight to an opponent although for Celtic and Ange Postecoglou, now is not the time to dwell on these past games. Rather, it is time to look ahead to the final three group clashes with positivity as it is fair to say a lot is at stake.
Looking ahead with positivity
Despite not tasting victory in the Champions League in 2022/23, it is still within the realms of possibility for Celtic to qualify for the last 16 of the competition.
Pre-match Press conference
Although it is not within their own hands, it is fairly simple – all that needs to happen is for Real Madrid to win their next two and the Bhoys to do the same.
And when you consider Celtic’s upcoming Champions League games, it would appear six points are definitely achievable.
Two European nights at Parkhead against RB Leipzig and Shakhtar Donetsk within two weeks of each other makes for a mouthwatering prospect for all of the Celtic faithful.
Nonetheless if the Hoops want to go far in Europe this season, performances are required in the forthcoming matches along with it being crucial points are put up on the board.