According to a recent interview with Celtic TV (via The Scottish Daily Mail), Brendan Rodgers has played down talk of his side reaching the Europa League final this season. The Bhoys qualified for the group stages of Europe’s secondary competition earlier this month in beating Suduva in the play-off round, and will begin their group stage campaign against Rosenborg at Parkhead later this week.
And some talk has been of the Bhoys going on to reach the tournament’s showpiece this season, yet manager Rodgers has moved to dub down those expectations – a move which was without doubt the right thing to do.
Ultimately, there is still likely to be an element of disappointment among Celtic fans given they failed to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League this season, having lost to AEK Athens in the third qualifying round back in August.
Yet they certainly made their intentions clear in the Europa League by brushing aside Suduva in the play-off round, and in a group which includes Rosenborg, Red Bull Salzburg, and RB Leipzig, Celtic fans are likely to be optimistic about their side’s chances of progression.
However, one mustn’t forget that the Bhoys have not really made much of a statement in European competition in recent years, so for them to go all the way and reach the final this term, in a competition which includes some of the continent’s biggest clubs, will prove to be a very difficult challenge.
The Bhoys haven’t won a European knockout tie since group stages were introduced in the Europa League back in the 2004/05 campaign, with their run to the quarter-finals of the old UEFA Cup the season before the furthest they have been since reaching the final in 2003.
Thus, while Rodgers’ side have quality in key positions to cause problems for many sides in the competition, going from one extreme in failing to win any knockout games to going all the way to the final is sure to prove very tricky indeed – and that’s assuming they get out of the group.
Fans are certainly allowed to dream about the prospect of their side reaching the showpiece this season, but many will cast their minds back to February of this year to know that the knockout rounds are particularly difficult – drawing Zenit St Petersburg was a rough draw, and ultimately one they were unable to come through.
Ultimately, while Celtic fans are sure to be excited at their side’s quest for European glory this season, Rodgers is very wise and thus absolutely right to dub down expectations of their team reaching the Europa League showpiece.
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