CHRIS SUTTON insists Celtic “need a rocket” to reinstate belief of achieving something in the Champions League.
The former Hoops goal hero believes Brendan Rodgers has a lot of work to do in the transfer market to put together a squad capable of competing at this level after the fourth loss in Group E as they folded to a double strike from Lazio in Rome.
The Serie A outfit also picked up three points in the stoppage-time triumph in Glasgow against a team that went down 2-0 in their opening encounter against Feyenoord in Rotterdam where they had two players – Gustaf Lagerbielke and Odin Holm – dismissed in six torrid second-half minutes.
NO HIDING PLACE…Brendan Rodgers faces the media after the 2-0 loss in Rome.
Rodgers’ side managed their solitary point in the 2-2 draw with Atletico Madrid ay Parkhead before collapsing to a six-goal mauling in the Spanish capital, an uphill battle as soon as Daizen Maeda was dismissed in the 22nd minute.
Sutton also warned his ex-team they cannot afford to repeat too many lethargic performances in the Premiership that have seen six points spilled in drab draws against tomorrow’s opponents St Johnstone, Hibs and Motherwell.
Astoundingly, the champions could muster only one goal in those three outings – and that came from a penalty-kick scored by David Turnbull against his former Fir Park team.
The one-time England international forward said: “Celtic look weak and timid in the Champions League. Worryingly for them, I’m beginning to wonder if others aren’t scared of them on the home front anymore and they are losing some of their own fear factor.
“Brendan Rodgers might not be able to fix the first one of those. But the manager definitely needs to find a way to quickly reinstate the second because the club are walking a tightrope at the moment and can’t afford to stumble.
“Let’s deal with Europe first. Given the fall-out from the Champions League exit, we’ve heard all the predictable statements following the similarly predictable outcome in Rome.
“Celtic’s defeat to Lazio was just another in the long line of setbacks which have come my old club’s way on the continent. Rodgers spoke afterwards about needing to add quality to the ranks to compete at that level and that is obvious.
“Trouble is, how much do you need? Quite frankly, clubs have spent tens of millions to try and make an impact and failed.”
SINKING FEELING…Joe Hart is left helpless as Ciro Immobile nets Lazio’s opener.
Sutton, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “Celtic couldn’t win a game last season when they were better prepared. They haven’t won a game this season with less impressive preparation.
“Now let’s get one thing straight. I’m not saying they should just give up. Just accept you are going to lose. You have to be able to land a few blows now and again and get some positive results to sprinkle around now and again.
“But, in the longer term and over the course of a section, maybe Celtic just aren’t going to get there and be consistently successful. Maybe this is how it is going to be going forward. Qualify, get the money and go straight back out again.
“That’s very painful to say because I look at a team like FC Copenhagen going into the final match with a chance to qualify from a group which includes Bayern Munich and Manchester United.
“But I can’t seriously look at the record of Celtic over the past 10 years in the competition, put my hand on my heart and say they can definitely emulate the Danes because, unless something radically changes, the evidence tells me I’d be talking rubbish.
“It’s not just a quick fix, either. Celtic are weaker than last season and have regressed. The squad’s going to take a lot of work to reach a level needed to make a serious impact in the competition.
“Mind you, at this point, any impact at all would be half decent. Like winning a game. But I watched events in Rome and felt they looked light on quality, light on physicality and light on belief.
“Some of them also looked fearful as they toiled to get at a home team which, in truth, wasn’t much cop on the night. Hopefully, Celtic can get a victory over Feyenoord and instil some much-needed confidence as well as getting a 10-year home winless monkey off their backs.”
CAPITAL PUNISHMENT…James Forrest hits an effort wide of the post with Hibs keeper David Marshall relieved in the 0-0 draw at Easter Road in October.
Sutton commented: “That final Champions League group game comes in the midst of a massive period domestically and Celtic really need to get ruthless. It’s hard to pick holes in a side that haven’t lost a single fixture of the Premiership all season and have a strong lead at the summit.
“But, just as with Europe, there needs to be honesty. And the simple truth is that Celtic are meandering in spells. Last weekend’s draw with Motherwell was not a one-off in terms of performance. It was sluggish and it was lacklustre.
“Just as the goalless draws were against St Johnstone and Hibs earlier in the campaign when the other points were shipped. There’s also been games which have been won where they haven’t hit the heights and I’m sure opponents are gaining more belief they can get something.
“Celtic dodged a bullet last weekend because Rangers slipped up the following day against Aberdeen, but they can’t keep opening the door because, at some stage, their big rivals could walk through it.
The former £6million recruit from Chelsea in the summer of 2000 added: “Celtic need to stand on the pedal, get moving and strike fear into sides again.
“Teams dreaded facing Ange Postecoglou’s 100-miles-per-hour outfit. They ran sides ragged, never gave them a breath, ravaged them. They hated it.
“Right now, Celtic aren’t doing it. It’s a different style and, just like Stuart Kettlewell last weekend, I think Craig Levein will believe he can set up a St Johnstone side to sit in, frustrate and stay compact due to a lack of thrust from the visitors.
“Celtic need a rocket. They need to get the ruthless edge back at home. Because if the fans are frustrated enough at the European setbacks, I’d very much doubt they’ll tolerate failure on the home front.”