Celtic’s resurgence in recent weeks continued on Saturday afternoon as they recorded an emphatic 5-0 victory over Hearts at Celtic Park – a result which underlined their superiority in the division, even if results haven’t always illuminated that this season.
Indeed, Brendan Rodgers’ side are beginning to rediscover the irresistible form which the supporters have become accustomed to in recent years. After scoring an eye-watering twenty goals in their last four SPFL fixtures, attention now turns to Celtic’s Europa League campaign.
Dominance on the domestic front has seldom been backed up by a European campaign worth shouting about, and the Bhoys’ first three fixtures in this season’s Europa League would suggest that they are on the brink of faltering on the continent once again.
A return of three points from the opening three fixtures has left Celtic with an uphill battle in their bid to qualify for the knockout stages of the competition ahead of their clash with RB Leipzig on Thursday evening.
The good news for supporters is that Celtic have already played both RB Salzburg and RB Leipzig away from home – the two most challenging fixtures on paper – although, conversely, they were comfortably beaten in both games.
But with the roar of Celtic Park behind them Brendan Rodgers’ side will have a huge advantage on Thursday evening in a game which they simply have to win, according to BBC Sport pundit Jonathan Sutherland.
‘Celtic are now flexing their muscles and the momentum is clear to see. The form appears to be back to the level they established in Brendan Rodgers’ first two seasons, which bodes well for their crucial home game against RB Leipzig in the Europa League on Thursday – one Celtic have to win if they are to make progress in the competition.’
Sutherland’s claim that Celtic have to beat Leipzig on Thursday is bold but fair given the circumstances; a defeat would effectively see them knocked out of the competition, even if mathematics are still likely to offer them a slice of hope, while a draw would leave them needing to win their remaining fixtures against RB Salzburg and Rosenborg away from home.
But it’s not only the mathematical side of the situation which Celtic need to consider, it’s the mental one which could prove decisive in their bid to sneak out of Group B.
A victory over RB Leipzig would restore optimism into the supporters and the players, giving them a sense of genuine belief that they are capable of going head-to-head with some of the strongest teams in the competition and coming out on top.
Celtic are hitting top form at the right time and they will need to continue their lethal form on Thursday evening to record an imperative victory in their hunt for qualification.
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