Celtic and Rangers could make serious impression on this season’s Champions League

Not since 2007 have two Scottish clubs appeared in the group stages of the Champions League. This is a fact that underlines the achievement of both Celtic and Rangers in qualifying for European football’s most prestigious club competition this season. Scotland will once again be well-represented at Champions League level.

 

While qualification might be an achievement in itself for Celtic and Rangers, the two rivals could make a serious impression in this season’s Champions League. Neither team is in the competition to merely make up the numbers. Celtic and Rangers are both stronger than they have been in a number of years.

 

Rangers demonstrated this by making an incredible run to the Europa League final last season. Steven Gerrard’s surprise departure from Ibrox midway through the campaign threatened to derail the Govan outfit, but they have built on the foundations left behind by the former Liverpool captain.

 

Victories over Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig were no less than Rangers deserved with Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s team only losing to Eintracht Frankfurt in the final on penalties. This run was backed up with Champions League qualifying wins over Union Saint-Gilloise and PSV Eindhoven.

 

Van Bronckhorst’s team are capable of more than they showed in Champions League qualifying, but this is a group of players who now know how to achieve results in continental competition. Rangers have landed in an extremely challenging group alongside Ajax, Liverpool and Napoli, but they have the experience to be competitive.

 

Celtic don’t have that same experience, but Ange Postecoglou’s team are extremely exciting. The Australian coach led Celtic to the Scottish Premiership title in his first season in charge and has turned the club’s fortunes around after inheriting a squad in desperate need of a rebuild. Postecoglou has certainly put his stamp on the Hoops.

 

All that makes Celtic such a special team right now was on show as they scored nine goals against Dundee United last weekend with Liel Abada and Kyogo Furuhashi both netting hat tricks. Celtic boast an abundance of attacking options with Portuguese winger Jota arguably the most talented of the lot. Postecoglou has built around his frontline to devastating effect.

 

The intensity and speed of Celtic’s play has the potential to blow away opponents, although there are questions over how they will adapt to the top level of European football. Domestically, Postecoglou’s team are able to impose their own game in most matches. In the Champions League, they will have to stay compact at times – can they do this?

 

This was the issue Brendan Rodgers encountered during his time as Celtic manager. The Hoops were dominant domestically with the Northern Irishman at the helm, and played some excellent football in the process, but Rodgers’ unwillingness to compromise on his principles led to some heavy defeats in the Champions League. Postecoglou mustn’t make the same mistake.

 

This season’s Champions League will ask questions of Celtic and Rangers that haven’t asked of them in a long time. The competition at the elite level of the European game is extremely stiff and any weaknesses in the two Glasgow rivals will be ruthlessly exploited. There’s no guarantee that they will succeed in the Champions League.

 

However, Celtic and Rangers have nothing to fear in the competition. They both have reasons to believe the Champions League will bring the best out of their players. Celtic in particular have a chance of making the last 16 after being drawn in a group with RB Leipzig, Real Madrid and Shakhtar Donetsk. Scotland has two seats back at the top table of European football and Celtic and Rangers want to make their voices heard.

Author: Tamara Kim