Celtic: Dominant Force in Scotland, Weak on the European Stage

Celtic suffered heartbreak in their Champions League group stage game against Lazio as Pedro scored in stoppage time to seal the three points for Maurizio Sarri’s side at Celtic Park, leaving the Scottish champions bottom with no points on the board.


The defeat against Lazio means it’s been TEN years since the Hoops last won a Champions League group stage fixture at home. Beram Kayal’s winner against Ajax in October 2013 was the last time Celtic picked up three points in the competition in front of their home support. Since then, they have failed to win their last eleven home games in club football’s most prestigious competition.


Two seasons ago, Celtic became the first Scottish team to get knocked out of the Champions League, Europa League, and the Europa Conference League in the same season. The Scottish champions haven’t won a European knockout round in a staggering NINETEEN years, with their last win coming against Barcelona in the last 16 of the UEFA Cup in March 2004. 


After the loss to Lazio, Brendan Rodgers is now statistically the WORST manager to have managed in the Champions League: 20 games, two wins, 13 losses, with a win percentage of 10%.


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Celtic have been the dominant side in Scottish football over the last ten years, but when it comes to competing on the European stage, why is it they fail to deliver? Celtic season ticket holder Chris Toner spoke about his team’s lack of success in Europe, arguing that their mentality is an issue:


“For a team that has been so successful on the domestic front, it’s frankly baffling how we can’t correlate that into European success. I believe that the problem lies within the team mentality itself, along with a combination of the pressure of fan expectation to build upon the domestic success into a European run. I feel that the team can’t size themselves up against the opposition that lies before us due to the weight of expectation to deliver in Europe after close to two decades of mostly failure.”


The Hoops have had some iconic European nights at Celtic Park, but Toner believes the failure in recent years to progress to the latter stages in European competitions has overshadowed that.


He continued: “Yes, we’ve had some memorable nights since then (the Nakamura free-kick against Manchester United and the 2012 triumph over Barcelona), but these results are overshadowed by our failure to progress in the latter stages of knockout European competitions. The last decade in particular, makes for grim reading. It’s a major red flag that our best European runs in that time have been under Neil Lennon when we’ve had managers such as Brendan Rodgers and Ange Postecoglou.”


“There’s also something not the same about the atmosphere at Celtic Park on Champions League nights, and as a result, I feel like it has lost its fortress status. In years gone by, you’ve seen the likes of Gerard Pique and Toni Kroos praise the Parkhead atmosphere on Champions League night as being amongst the best in Europe, but when I was there on Wednesday, something about it just seemed off to me, and as soon as Pedro scored at the death, I was disappointed to see how many fans flocked in their droves out of their seats as soon as it went in.


We need to bring that roar back that has generated some of our most famous triumphs back if we are to improve our European record.”


Celtic’s next Champions League fixture is against group leaders Atletico Madrid at Celtic Park and failure to defeat the Spanish giants will make qualification from the group a near impossible task. 


By: Scott Bradley / @ScottBradleyX

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Masashi Hara / Getty Images