Celtic’s real Champions League competition


Not all Champions League ‘winners’ take the trophy home in May.  In 2009 Michel Platini, in his wisdom, decided that there were not enough champions in the Champions League, as a result of well-resourced also-rans from the large leagues crowding out table-toppers from the small leagues. The competition format was changed, champions from smaller nations would compete against each other.

The result of the change is that five champions from smaller leagues are guaranteed entry into the tournament. Conversely, runners up from the smaller leagues need to fight it out against non-champions from the big leagues, like Arsenal and Manchester United. The concern expressed at the time was that the flood of money gained by champions from the small countries would impact their leagues. ‘Good’, said a few of us.

Champions League money can double the income some clubs earn in a year. Successful Champions League entrants’ ability to compete would be greatly enhanced, perhaps meaning they jump into a virtuous circle, strengthening and qualifying in subsequent years.

There have been 30 places up for grabs in the champions route since, but the qualification performance stats isn’t what was expected by many. 22 teams have qualified but only six have done so more than once. Two, BATE Borisov and APOEL Nicosia, are the only teams to go one step better and qualify three times. Curiously, only BATE and Celtic have qualified in back to back seasons, no one has managed three in a row.

For all the riches the Champions League brings to Celtic, and teams far more impoverished than them, successful teams seem to encounter the classic Nouveau Riche problem. All this money and they don’t know how best to invest it in order to make sure they get another payday.

Qualification itself is not costless in competitive terms. It’s likely each team who punches through the barrier to reach the Promised Land, has to suffer the cost of exertion and distraction, which the visits of Europe’s aristocracy inevitably brings.

Then there’s the question of what to do with the money. Your best players get a shop window, encouraging them to run down their contracts. Your manager is likely to be off too. You have to find candidates further down the food chain, either in a lesser-still league, or at a club in your own land who are prepared to sell to you. And remember, this New Money is in the hands of people largely unaccustomed to spending at that level. You can afford to sign a €3m player, but the most expensive player you’ve previously worked with cost €200k. Those who can spot a great €200k player are not necessarily experienced enough to spend €3m wisely.

APOEL Nicosia and BATE Borisov have managed what the other 20 teams have struggled to replicate. Both are in this season’s play-offs and are favourites to go one stage further again. If BATE achieve this, they will have been group stage entrants four seasons out of five, so sustainable success not impossible.

Last week produced signs that eventually the cream is rising to the top. Eight of the 10 clubs in this season’s play-offs have reached the group stage through the champions route before, with the other two, Astana (v APOEL) and Albania’s Skenderbeu (v Dinamo Zagreb) odds against making it. For the first time it’s likely all five champions’ qualifiers will former graduates. The current highest number to qualify in one season is two.

So although the 30 places have been filled by 22 clubs from a remarkably diverse 17 countries, the pool of genuine competitors is approaching a limit.

Here’s the challenge, for Celtic and the rest. Your Champions League is a distinct competition to the headline grabbing tournament graced by Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Yours is being won by BATE Borisov. They are the team who have figured out what’s needed to come through this summer test with most consistency.

There are five places up for grabs.  BATE and APOEL are doing their best to make sure their names are against two of those places.  Celtic can grab another slot, but Malmo, Basel and Salzburg, as well as the Czechs, Israelis, Danes, Poles and other Eastern European teams, want their piece of the action too.  A win against Malmo would go a long way towards flipping resources in Celtic’s favour, but whatever the outcome, being better than the rest of this geographically diverse group of small-nation clubs should be our immediate target.

Happy Birthday 50th to the Celtic View, the world’s first football club newspaper.  Congratulations to the many who have contributed to the View over the years.

Can’t believe the news coverage John Collins comment has received.  When he heard Derek McInnes’ backlash (cough) he must have looked around for a dressing room full of Hibs players.

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    Our biggest game of the season takes place a fortnight tomorrow.



    Away to Malmo.



    It really is that simple.



    The league should be a formality,the cups I would love to win,but the CL is The Holy Grail.

  2. Delaneys Dunky on




    Thanks for getting the Malmo tickets for my son and I. Just phoned him at work, to say he is excited is an understatement. Much appreciated bud.

  3. TheOriginalSadiesBhoy on



    And Celtic ticketing is Monty Python.






    Very clever :-))

  4. The whole “Champions” league process is a stitch up for teams like Celtic, having to play three qualifiers is a disgrace, all designed for the so called big leagues. Sick of it.



    Hail! Hail!

  5. BMCUW, I hear you, but, if we win 5-0 next week, the return leg becomes a little less tense!



    IanBhoy929, Celtic always complain about having three qualifying rounds but I’m all right with it. They prepare us for the next round.

  6. 67Heaven .. CHALLENGING THE LIE ..I am wee Oscar...... Ipox belongs to the creditors on

    The standard of football in the SPFL is so poor sevco didn’t want to come up last season …… Damned disrespectful …. !!!!!!!!

  7. 67Heaven .. CHALLENGING THE LIE ..I am wee Oscar...... Ipox belongs to the creditors on

    IANBHOY929 on 11TH AUGUST 2015 12:33 PM



    All ‘champions’ should automatically gain entry to the Group Stage …..others should qualify only by progressing through qualifiers ….. would make the qualifying stages VERY interesting….

  8. Good, detailed Article Paul67,



    It gets to the Heart of the matter. We all know that Celtic can go out and buy a couple of quality players who can make our passage to the UCL group stages more certain.



    Why don’t we? Sustainability, if we fall at the qualification stage we are in debt, those players can only be afforded by guaranteed Champions League Football.



    Some moan about a certain lack of style and certainly a lack of goals in this Celtic team, for me I think Ronny and his team have got the priorities right.



    He’s making us hard to beat, all eleven members of the team have a defensive remit. The fact is you’re more likely to get through the qualifiers by not conceding than scoring a barrelful.



    My only hope is, if we are successful in making it through to the group stage, we invest in January to make progression more sustainable.



    Hail Hail

  9. I’m unsure if we all get the same adverts or it’s like cookies!



    Ffs… I’ve got “Grandmas wrinkle trick”..oh well, I’ll give it a try:(

  10. 67Heaven .. CHALLENGING THE LIE ..I am wee Oscar…… Ipox belongs to the creditors



    I agree and always have done that Cahmpions should automatically qualify BUT having looked at the qualifiers we have played recently there are countries that would add little to the tournement. Every team who do not win their league should have to play some type of qualifier though. They should not be treated better than a champion of any nation elsewhere.


    Previous winners should get automatic entry to the group stages if they win their league. They are the elite in the tournament and should be treated as such. Teams who have come 2nd in a big league and have not even reached a final before and in some cases not won their league title in decades if at all enter the CL at the group stage and with a higher rating than Celtic. That is surely wrong.


    The format they have is a ratings winner though so it’s hard to change. Platini should be applauded for changes made thus far but there is still some tweaking to be done. I suspect the qualifying rounds could be fashioned into some sort of pre-season style seeded group stage. It would mean that Celtic would probably be the top rated side in their group.


    Realistically on the evidence of this season we would be in a group as follows:












    This reflects seedings as close as possible. It gives these teams a number of European matches and also gives all teams a chance to gain some much sought after coefficient points. The cream usually rises to the top in a group stage format so I don;t think there is much to fear there. Winners go into the group phase and the runner up faces the play off system. In most cases that gives the 2md seeded team a good crack at making the group stages. It gives decent TV revenue to all the teams involved also. Due to little other football being on at that stage of the season it really gives a cutting edge and excitement as well as much needed pre-season action for Celtic at a very decent level.


    Looking at it through the ole green tinted glasses Celtic would probably beat the two bottom seeded sides home and away and every team at home which would mean we would qualify comfortably. It would allow us to qualify with a game or two to spare and blood some youth players and new signings. It is much the same as the group stages for your elite teams currently. Barca, Real, Bayern, etc are really going through the motions in the group stages gelling players and finding their feet for the season.


    It’s an idea just something different.




  11. glendalystonsils on

    I think we should just rename it the “Lots of runners up and some champions League”



    There ye are. Sorted.



    Goodbye CL. We would be competing for a place in the LORUASCL instead. Honesty prevails.

  12. Only 6 of the Champions League Winners in the since 2000 have succedded in winning the champions league having won their respective countries domestic league.



    Champions League Winners Domestic League Winners


    2015 Barcelona 2014 Athletico Madrid


    2014 Real madrid 2013 Barcelona


    2013 Bayern Munich 2012 Borussia Dortmund


    2012 Chelsea 2011 Man City


    2011 Barcelona 2010 Barcelona


    2010 Inter Milan 2009 Inter Milan


    2009 Barcelona 2008 Real Madrid


    2008 Man U 2007 Man U


    2007 Milan 2006 Inter Milan


    2006 Barcelona 2005 Barcelona


    2005 Liverpool 2004 Chelsea


    2004 Porto 2003 Porto


    2003 Milan 2002 Juventus


    2002 Real Madrid 2001 Valencia


    2001 Bayern Munich 2000 Bayern Munich


    2000 Real madrid 1999 Deportivo La Coruna



    Rather be in it than out it but the concept is a total farce from Top to Bottom



    Much like the UK and Westminster.



    MWD said AYE Freeeeddddddoooommmmmmm!!!

  13. how disrespectful is it to let your ‘young’ assistant manager take charge in cup games? –

  14. blantyretim is praying for the Knox family on

    Karen Buckleys murder


    The accused has admitted guilt


    Saves a trial and the ordeal for her family


    Small blessings

  15. It’s far too late to buy players for Malmo games. Players need a few weeks to bed in. I think in general Ronny & Pedro did OK, getting GMS & Armstrong last Christmas and getting Boyata, Ciftci and good reserve keeper in early, that plus a more sensible pre-season.


    It’s always a gamble, we are where we are, I think we have the players to beat Malmo, we just need to perform on the night.

  16. Interesting article Paul67 – very well done. The names of potential opponents at this stage are largely becoming familiar as a result of the things you point out.



    I think sometimes Celtic’s name goes before us in Europe – we may well be seen by most of the clubs mentioned as a big scalp. It’s not just Aberdeen and ICT who raise their game to play our big club!



    I think we’re getting there – we have to allow for some of the newer guys inexperience at European level but we also have to support them by trying to get someone to fill the Kris Commons/ Nakamura/ Lubo type role and continue the search for the iconic striker!

  17. Captain Beefheart on

    The system can work well for Celtic. We only, in reality, face two qualification ties againat moderate opponents each year. Not bad.

  18. Captain Beefheart on

    Afternoon Robert. Sorry but we aren’t a scalp.



    Corkie, big gamble from Celtic. Relying on Cifci and not signing a better attacker.CL is the be all and end all. We should scrape through but it won’t be easy.

  19. Perhaps the power brokers in football have got the names of their competitions mixed up big time . The so-called Champions League is not a league of Champions and The Europa League would have been a more apt title, this has been mentioned on many occasions on this site. The other competition should have held onto the previous name of the EUFA CUP.

  20. Captain Beefheart on

    Paul 67,



    Are we scouting in Belarus and such places? We certainly have a presence in the Czech Republic but elsewhere?

  21. hankray



    Agree but the CL was an established name and brand by the time they restructured the EL.



    The format is dominated by groups and I think the qualifiers should be too. The format was designed to ensure the best teams have the best chance to qualify. The same should happen at the qualifying stage.




  22. RobertTressell, agree.



    Captain Beefheart, I doubt we’re scouting in Belarus. They are not in the UE and not in the Fifa top 50 index, so there would be work permit issues, and I doubt many of them speak English, or many at Lennoxtown speak Belarusian.



    Lots of obstacles which would only be worthwhile for an exceptional talent – which BATE don’t have. They are champion qualifiers, thereafter it falls apart.

  23. Captain Beefheart on

    We tend to moan about Scottish football but it does have its advantages. The physicaliy perhaps helps us in Europe. Technically superior sides such as Zagreb have had dreadful CL campaigns. We generally have performed quite admirably. Perhaps our physical aspect helps?



    I remember a ginger guy, with an awful first touch, from Lanarkshire destroying a Barcelona fullback thanks to an imposing physical drive.

  24. Geordie Munro



    That’s a good idea!



    That would mean that all 29 corners of the continent of Europe could be represented in the group stages!!








    Scouting in East Europe is no stranger to Celtic. 25 years ago we signed Dziekanowski and Wdowczyk.



    Had we spent a few quid on a train or plane,we might have discovered Lubo. He didn’t move to France until a year later.



    Lubo was magnificent with us-I still recall the BRT&H article about him,and the Scotttish connection-so just think if we had signed him instead of Dziekanowski. Ten years earlier.




  26. P67/WC


    Liking the new format, no problems on any front in accessing via LT at home, Android Nexus 7 Tablet and Samsung Galaxy S4 – oh, and shoosh, this PC at work…!



    A small suggestion if I may: it might make navigation easier if the Blog was called CQN Blog, rather than Celtic Quick News (as the overall site)? Also, the link at the bottom only takes me to the Blog home page as opposed to directly to the new article. Just my random thoughts. For interest, just got an email about Dublin 2016 on my phone, which I will look at later when I get home from work. Keep up the excellent work, and HH to all.

  27. On the ads thing.


    Getting ads for the British army and South West Trains.


    I live in the wee six counties.


    The army ones are frying my head. They are the last things I would expect to see on a Celtic site

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