BRENDAN RODGERS urgently requires quality additions to his squad – or Celtic will NOT be prepared for the challenges of Europe next season.
Former Hoops goal hero Chris Sutton insists his old club were not ready for the Champions League this time out as they won only one, drew one and lost four of their games in Group E.
Rodgers saw his team lose home and away against Lazio, kick off the competition with a 2-0 defeat against Feyenoord in Rotterdam and gain a draw with Atletico Madrid in Glasgow before being trounced 6-0 in the return.
The solitary triumph arrived in midweek when Luis Palma (pen) and Gustaf Lagerbielke claimed the strikes that downed the Dutch in a dramatic crescendo at Parkhead.
And Celtic can expect some of the same results at Europe’s elite level if they do not get in the right recruits.
Sutton said: “Players need to be bought. Good quality players with experience. Not development players. The club already has those. They need help from senior faces who have been around a bit.
“If they are not sourced and signed in January or at the start of the summer, Celtic will just tumble back into the same cycle again next season as they have been in during this one and that is not a situation I feel Rodgers would have signed up for.
“The club needs to deliver the right additions. Then he needs to deliver when he gets them. It’s the only way Celtic will go forward in Europe.
“Of course, right now, there is no guarantee the club will be in the group stages next season because the title race is well and truly on.
“Celtic needed that win over Feyenoord because their display at Kilmarnock six days ago was abject. As poor as I’ve seen in a while.”
The one-time England international striker, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “I said in this column a fortnight ago that teams were losing the fear factor at the thought of playing Celtic and Killie just backed up my theory.
“Derek McInnes’ men went after Rodgers’ team in the second-half and the simple truth is that my old team didn’t handle it.
“They stopped playing to their strengths, were outfought, outrun and undone. It was hugely worrying for them and it simply has to be a one-off.”
Sutton added: “Celtic have a crucial spell of five games coming before the mid-season shutdown and they have to try and be flawless.
“If they do that, with a game in there against Rangers on their own patch in the sequence, they’ll be odds-on again to return to Europe’s elite competition.
“The squad has been down to the bones in recent weeks and it’s going to be crucial to get some of the key men back. Cameron Carter-Vickers and Daizen Maeda seem ready to go for today’s game against Hearts and the likes of Liel Abada and Reo Hatate have still to return.
“Rodgers is going to need them all because Celtic have to up the gears. Perhaps without the demands of Europe in the second half of the season, that will happen, anyway.
“But nothing is a given and the champions certainly do not want to be handing any more encouragement to Rangers.”
The Hoops can go eight points ahead with a victory over the Tynecastle outfit they overwhelmed 4-1 in Edinburgh earlier in their quest for a twelfth title in 13 years.
* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report from Celtic v Hearts this afternoon – only in your champion CQN.