Can Celtic restore some pride in remaining Champions League fixtures?

Any quiet confidence Celtic fans had heading into Tuesday night’s European encounter with Diego Simeon’s Atlético Madrid side was swiftly crushed as the Spanish outfit “humbled” and “embarrassed” the Hoops, in the words of club captain Callum McGregor.

The draw with Atleti in Glasgow two weeks ago may have provided some form of encouragement for what was already looking like an insurmountable task. The prospects of taking anything home from Madrid went from unlikely to impossible just 25 minutes after kick-off, as Brendan Rodgers’ side were a goal down and a man down following Daizen Maeda’s sending off.

The red card was brandished following a VAR intervention for a foul on defender Mario Hermoso, a decision that has been heavily criticised on social media from, not only Celtic supporters, but from neutral fans and journalists as well.

48 hours after what was a torrid time at the Wanda Metropolitano, we now have to assess the current state of Celtic’s Champions League campaign after four matches, and wonder whether anything can still be salvaged from it?

Encouraging early stages, but nothing to show for it

The first three performances in the Champions League provided encouragement as Celtic went toe-to-toe and remained competitive with all three teams in the group, but one thing those performances didn’t wield was a win, as Celtic emerged from the first round of fixtures with a solitary point.

The trip to De Kuip had been earmarked as a potential opportunity to grab a draw, but injuries and inexperience cost Celtic on the night in Rotterdam as they finished the game with nine men and a 2-0 defeat.

If there was ever an opportunity to get a win on the board, it would have been when an unimpressive Lazio side rocked up to Parkhead, and Celtic were arguably the better team. However, it was a costly misjudgement for Cameron Carter-Vickers that allowed Pedro to stick a dagger through the hearts of Celtic fans in the 95th minute. A point on the night would have been harsh, but having nothing to show for their efforts was incredibly frustrating.

Stepping up against Atleti

The team gave fans a performance they could be proud of against Atlético Madrid at Celtic Park, going ahead twice on the night and earning a respectable point against a side of real quality.

The trip to Madrid was seen as a free-hit beforehand, but being handed a six-goal humbling will massively dent team morale and confidence at this level, which is the last thing Brendan Rodgers needs when he is desperately trying to get this group over the mental hurdle of European football.

What can Celtic salvage from the group stage?

Celtic are all but eliminated from the competition, needing a win in Rome against Lazio as well as a win against Feyenoord at Parkhead, plus a nine-goal swing. This is also banking on Lazio losing away to Atlético Madrid.

For Europa League football after Christmas, Celtic once again need to win the remaining two fixtures in the group, whilst also relying on Feyenoord to either draw (which would then require an 11-goal swing in goal difference) or lose at home to Atlético Madrid.

Achieving European football after Christmas seems to be a titanic task, with a realistic aim being to get three points on the board to restore some pride to the supporters in the stands and the players on the park.


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