Celtic’s back-to-back trips to the UEFA Champions League Knockouts


THE UEFA Champions League is underway again with this midweek’s matches and to say we are excited would be an understatement.

There are plenty of mouth-watering ties on the horizon, including repeats of the 2020 and 2022 finals as Paris Saint-Germain take on Bayern Munich over two legs after losing 1-0 in the French capital and Liverpool face Real Madrid respectively.

Unfortunately for fans of the Bhoys, there will be no appearance for Celtic in the latter stages of this year’s tournament. They were eliminated in the group stages after managing just two points from their six group games against Real Madrid, RB Leipzig, and Shakhtar Donetsk.

Online betting platform Bovada have made Manchester City the overwhelming favourites to lift the famous ‘big-eared’ trophy for the first time in the club’s history. Pep Guardiola’s Blues will face off against Celtic’s conquerors Leipzig in the second round, and many are expecting them to comfortably handle their German counterparts.

Celtic haven’t reached the Champions League knockout stage in a decade. Back in the 2012/13 season, the Scottish champions finished ahead of Benfica and Spartak Moscow to secure a last-sixteen meeting with Juventus. But poacher Alessandro Matri helped himself to a double as the Bianconeri romped to a 5-0 aggregate victory.

Five years prior to that trip to the last sixteen, Celtic reached the knockout stages of the competition in two consecutive campaigns, the only time the club has achieved the feat. In honour of the competition’s return to screens across the continent, let’s take a look back at those two glorious campaigns for a healthy dose of nostalgia.

Shinsuke Nakamura and the heroes of 2006/07

In the 2006/07 season, Celtic had an incredible run in European football’s number one competition. They went toe-to-toe with some of Europe’s finest teams managing to the last sixteen of the competition.

In Group F, Celtic faced off against Benfica, Manchester United, and Copenhagen. They opened their campaign with a spirited performance in a 3-2 defeat at Old Trafford. They would then pick up back-to-back victories against the Danes and the Portuguese at Celtic Park, putting the Bhoys in a healthy position to qualify for the second round. A Shinsuke Nakamura wondergoal against United in Glasgow all but secured Celtic’s safe passage to the second round, and despite two defeats on the road, they successfully finished as runners-up to Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.

Celtic then entered the knockout stages where they were drawn against AC Milan – one of the favourites going into the competition. Although Milan had superstars like Kaka and Andriy Shevchenko in their ranks, Celtic managed to pull off a miraculous result by holding the Italians to 0-0 draws both at home and in the San Siro.

As such, the tie would go into extra time, where Brazilian genius Kaka would score the only goal of the affair and send the Italians through to the last eight. The Rossoneri wouldn’t stop there though, and that year they went all the way for the seventh time in their history, with a Filippo Inzaghi double against Liverpool in Athens laying to rest the ghost of Istanbul.

Celtic had some talented players in that squad including Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink who was their top scorer with 4 goals during their UCL campaign that year. Other standout performers included goalkeeper Artur Boruc who pulled off some incredible saves during crucial moments throughout the tournament and captain Scott Brown who was instrumental in midfield providing key passes and leadership throughout his side’s historic run.

Repeating the Feat The Following Season

The following year, Celtic saw off Spartak Moscow in qualifying to reach the group stages of the tournament once again. They were again drawn against Benfica, as well as Shakhtar Donetsk and their conquerors and reigning champions, AC Milan. It was certainly one of the toughest groups on paper, but Celtic rose to the occasion.

In their first match of the competition they were downed by Shakhtar in Ukraine however, they would stun the continent when they defeated AC Milan 2-1 at Parkhead with goals from Alan McManus and a 92nd-minute winner from Scott McDonald. They would go on to lose in Lisbon, before beating both Shakhtar and Benfica at Celtic Park to set up a last-16 tie with another set of tournament favourites, this time FC Barcelona.

Despite being massive underdogs going into the tie, Celtic put up an inspired effort in both legs against Barca. In the first leg in Glasgow, Celtic led twice through Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Barry Robson. The Blaugrana would come roaring back however, firstly through Lionel Messi and then through Thierry Henry. Then, with ten minutes remaining, Messi would score the winner.

In the Nou Camp, Celtic once again gave their all however, they would come up short. Xavi scored a third-minute opener and the visitors were unable to respond, giving the hosts a deserved victory.


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