ANGE POSTECOGLOU has watched Celtic perform in five away European games this season – and, amazingly, his team have scored first in all five outings.

Unfortunately, the Hoops lost three of those crucial encounters as they failed to defend their advantage.

Callum McGregor fired the visitors ahead in Denmark against FC Midtjylland, but, disappointingly, Postecoglou’s men crashed 2-i in extra-time to exit the Champions League at the first qualifying stage.

Kyogo Furuhashi netted in his first start for the team as they overcame FK Jablonec 4-2 in the Czech Republic in the Europa League qualifier and the Japanese striker repeated the feat in the second leg play-off against AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands. His early strike gave the Parkhead outfit a 3-0 aggregate lead before the Dutch fought back to win 2-1, but the Glasgow side went through 3-2.

DANISH DELIGHT…Callum McGregor celebrates the opening goal against FC Midtjylland – but, alas, the Hoops could not hold on in the Champions League qualifier.

Albian Ajeti was on the mark against Real Betis in Seville in the opening Europa League Group G encounter and Josip Juranovic doubled the advantage, but the Spanish outfit came back to win 4-3.

Kyogo took centre stage in the next section match when he hit the breakthrough goal in Budapest against Ferencavros as the visitors went on to a 3-2 victory.

Now Postecoglou will lead his players into tonight’s crucial confrontation against Bayer Leverkusen at the BayArena and on this occasion he will demand his players give everything against the Bundesliga club.

The Greek-Australian gaffer said: “If we fall short, at least we’ll know we’ve given it all and we’ll know where we need to improve.

“But if you go out there sort of trying to just have self-preservation or playing safe or not going out with the intention of leaving everything out there, you’ll never really know.

“That’s what we’ll do in every game – take on the challenge – and hopefully we can be successful and move on from there.

SWISS HIT…Albian Ajeti knocks in the opener against Real Betis in Seville, but the Spaniards came back to win 4-3.

“It’ll be challenging. They are a good side, they have picked up their form in the league.

“We know they are a side that are very quick on transition with quality players throughout their team. We are going to have to put our best foot forward to match them. It’s a challenge for us to try to impose our game on them.

“We are playing one of the top teams in Europe. To all intents and purposes they’re a Champions League side and we are playing them in their backyard, so that can’t be underestimated.

“But we have to go there and see how we measure up.”

Celtic lost 4-0 to the Germans in Glasgow in September, but they had their own chances to put a better complexion on the scoreline.

BUDAPEST BREAKTHROUGH…Kyogo Furuhashi races away after opening the scoring in the 3-2 win over Ferencvaros.

Joe Hart had to pick the ball out of his net four times, but his counterpart, Lukas Hradecky, could have had a similar task, but he turned in a superb performance to conjure up a few top-class saves, most notably two from Kyogo.

Postecoglou acknowledged the thin line between success and failure and when it was put to him about his team’s chances two months ago, he remarked: “Yes, we did, but we also conceded four goals.

“We have to make sure that we are concentrating all of the time and are well disciplined. They are a team that will wait for any mistakes we make and punish us.

“When the first game was at 0-0 in the first 20-odd minutes, we probably created the better chances. But then we made a mistake, they scored and we lost composure for a little bit.

“It’s always a battle away from home in Europe and especially this one. It’s important we have our concentration levels and discipline when we have the ball and, if we make mistakes, we don’t let the opposition punish us.”

OUT OF LUCK…Kyogo Furuhashi fires in a left-foot drive against Bayer Leverkusen that was brilliantly saved by keeper Lukas Hradecky.

Asked if Bayer would be facing a different Celtic team now to the one that lost 4-0 in Glasgow in September, Postecoglou, speaking to the Daily Record, answered: “I don’t think so.

“We are obviously more settled now. Before that game Kyogo Furuhashi had been out for a month and that was his first game back. Callum McGregor had been out for three weeks and it was his first game back.

“We were going through a very unsettled period and we are definitely more settled. But the fabric, the core of the side and the way we want to play, won’t be that different.

“Irrespective, it is still a massive challenge. There’s no doubt results help with belief and our confidence, but I’ve tried to make sure the attitude doesn’t change.

PAIN IN SPAIN…Ange Postecoglou at the end of the 4-3 loss against Real Betis in Seville.

“Even when we were going through a rocky spell, the way we train, the way we conduct ourselves, you can’t just be dependent on results.

“We have got to believe in ourselves, go out and take a game to opponents. Work hard every day in training.

“That is the key to being successful. If you just wait for things to go well for you, you are going to miss opportunities.

“We’re settled, the team have belief, but in terms of approach and our daily interaction with each other, it’s still the same.

“It’s the focus being on the best team we can be.”

And if Celtic do hit the opening goal, it would be massively beneficial to hold onto it for the third time during the club’s dramatic European excursions.

* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report from Bayer Leverkusen v Celtic this evening – only in your champion CQN.

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