Saturday 24 August 2019

64 games unbeaten in Scotland but Euro woe still goes on for Celtic

Brendan Rodgers applauds the Celtic fans after the match against PSG. Photo: Getty
Brendan Rodgers applauds the Celtic fans after the match against PSG. Photo: Getty

Gavin McCafferty

Celtic have gone 64 games unbeaten in Scottish football but a 7-1 defeat by Paris St Germain means they have now conceded 33 goals in their last 11 Champions League group games and won only once. Here we assesses the disparity in fortunes.

1. Money

By far the most important reason. PSG's three-pronged strikeforce of Edinson Cavani, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe will ultimately cost them more than £400m. Celtic's whole starting XI cost about £15m.

Celtic received less than £3m in domestic TV income last season - Sunderland earned more than £40m for winning six Premier League games. On the home front, the boot is firmly on the other foot.

According to a Sporting Intelligence survey, Celtic's average first-team wage in 2016 was more than double that of Rangers, more than five times that paid to nearest challengers Aberdeen, and 14 times that of Motherwell, who they face in the Betfred Cup final on Sunday. Although Rangers outspent Celtic in the transfer market this summer, they spread the money over 11 players.

2. Experience

Without the means to buy Champions League players, Celtic are forced to develop players into Champions League quality. Three academy products and seven players who are aged 24 and under faced PSG.

Of the Celtic side which beat Barcelona in 2012, four were subsequently sold to English Premier League clubs for a profit.

3. Injuries

Celtic's European cause has not been helped by injuries in defence. Right-back Mikael Lustig limped out of Celtic's three-man central defence early on in Paris and was replaced by a midfielder, Nir Bitton.

Centre-backs Dedryck Boyata, Jozo Simunovic and Erik Sviatchenko have managed 27 appearances between them from Celtic's 27 matches this season. The Hoops lined up at home to PSG with 18-year-old Anthony Ralston up against Neymar and Lustig in central defence.

4. Strategy

Brendan Rodgers has put the focus on long-term development rather than damage limitation. As he said after losing 3-0 to Bayern Munich: "I'd rather lose playing how we want to play and how we want to work, as opposed to sit in and defending for 90 minutes and still lose."

Celtic are set to make progress on last year by qualifying for the Europa League following their 3-0 victory away to Anderlecht. They also drew home and away against Manchester City last season.

5. European trends

Results like Celtic's Parc des Princes defeat are becoming more common as clubs from the big five leagues get richer and leave the rest of Europe behind.

After the fifth round of matches, there have been 26 victories of three goals or more and nine of those have been by more than three. In the 2001-02 first-round group stage for example, there were only 10 wins of three goals or more and five winning margins above three.

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