Celtic have a strategic problem. The great Neil Lennon European campaign of 2019 is slipping from our coefficient status, and we have done little of note since. Neil’s team are the only Celtic side to win a European group, finishing above Lazio, Rennes and Cluj. Four wins, a draw and defeat in a dead rubber in Romania required some breathtaking performances.
If we are to continue at the Continent’s top table, we need to get back to winning games in Europe. This is remarkably difficult in the Champions League, although Neil and Gordon Strachan had a formula. Thier teams defended, played to their strengths and gave us some of the most memorable Celtic games in the last 50 years.
Brendan Rodgers and Ange Postecoglou changed all that. Pragmatism was sacrificed for purity as record heavy defeats arrived in droves. It remains to be seen what learning has been achieved.
The threats and opportunities within this afternoon’s pots are not evenly distributed. We could get Manchester City or Feyenoord from Pot 1, Inter or Porto from Pot 2, Milan or Red Star from Pot 3. There are five current or previous European Champions in Pots 1 and 2, three in Pot 3 and we are the only one in Pot 4. Liverpool, Juventus and Ajax didn’t make the cut.
If it’s Feyenoord and Porto, fair enough, let’s see what we can do, but for me, the draw is all about Pot 3. That is where we are most likely to find a team with comparable resources and challenges, and therefore collect some points.