With a favourable tie against Hungarian outfit Ferencvárosi TC in the second round of the Champions League qualifying process, most people assumed a third-round nail-bitter against Dinamo Zagreb was inevitable. Unfortunately, Celtic crashed out and lost 1-2 at home, condemning The Bhoys to their Europa League fate.
It’s a bitter blow, but not entirely unexpected with Celtic odds-on to exit the Champions League Qualifiers most years, according to https://www.stsbet.co.uk.
While the Europa League is always a second prize to the ultimate goal of Champions League fame, it’s a much bigger competition now that the winners are automatically afforded a place in the Big Boys’ cup the following year.
Thankfully, Celtic now play Latvian side Riga, who overcame San Marino’s Tre Fiori 1-0, on Thursday. However, this is only one game, and the path to Europa League proper has been made much tougher as a result of the Champions League exit in the qualifying stages.
Why is it harder?
Celtic face a stern test due to the way the Europa League is structured. Unlike the Champions League, the seeded teams don’t enjoy an easy route. Instead, as one expert has pointed out, the teams that drop into the qualifying rounds only keep their seeding for a single EL game.
As a result, if Celtic manage to make it past Q3 and into the final play-off game, they could face anybody from the ‘Champions Path.’ So far, this includes the likes of Astana, Ludogorets, Legia and Cluj, all sides who have competed in the CL previously.
A one-off game
The one-off nature of ties also plays into the hands of Celtic’s rivals. Shocks are more likely over a shorter number of matches as it doesn’t give the bigger teams the opportunity to bounce back.
UEFA has already confirmed that all qualifying ties are single-leg matches, so whoever Celtic are drawn against, they’ll only get one opportunity.
Finally, should the qualifying rounds go Celtic’s way, the likelihood is that the Scottish side will be in Pot 2 for the group stages. It’s not a death sentence, yet it does increase the chances of playing better sides, making the group stages harder than necessary.
There’s no doubt that Celtic could, and should, make it to the group stages of the Europa League. From there, it depends on who they get. However, one thing’s for sure – they’ve made it a whole lot harder than it had to be.