The draw for the Champions League group stages will be taking place on the 25th August this year, so just under 3 weeks from today, Celtic will learn their European fate.
Celtic have historically had the hardest group every time we are in the competition, and in the Europa League too.
I know some supporters are happy to get the biggest teams so they can look forward to the glamour ties, but for me, I want us to get the easiest group possible as I’m sick of us being in the ‘group of death’ every time!
Of course, this is the Champions League, the elite competition of European football, and there simply aren’t any ‘easy ties’ for us, but there are definitely ties that are easier than others.
I’m going to take a look today at what that looks like, and what I feel will be Celtic’s best chance of progression to the last 16.
I’ll start off by saying though that whatever the draw is, I don’t expect us to get to the last 16. It would be brilliant of course, but I think as long as we perform well this season and get some respect back, maybe get a big victory at home and finish the group on 3 points or over, I’d be satisfied with that. Of course, if we were to get a similar draw to what I’ll show at the end of this article, then I would hope for a higher points tally than that.
It would be good to secure at least 3rd place in the group so we have Europa League football after Christmas, but let’s remember we are in pot 4, and it is expected we will therefore finish in 4th place in the group, so even if we manage to finish 3rd, that would be a really good achievement for us.
Now, looking at Pot 1, we have as follows:
Manchester City, Eintracht Frankfurt, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, AC Milan, PSG, Porto, Ajax
Cleary, Frankfurt are the weakest team in there. Not to say they are a bad side, they definitely aren’t, but that is the best team we can hope to get. I’d also be pretty happy if we got Porto or Ajax for the same reasons. Porto are a really hit and miss team, they can be very good, or they can be pretty poor. Ajax are a more consistent team, but you’d have to think we would fancy our chances of beating them at Celtic Park. They’ve also just lost manager Ten Haag and their star striker Sebastian Haller.
Pot 2 is as follows:
Liverpool, Chelsea, Barcelona, Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Sevilla, Tottenham, RB Leipzig
There is a pattern emerging here! It’s quite funny that the weakest team in each pot are who are rivals played last season! But quite clearly, the weakest team there is RB Leipzig. We saw against our rivals last season that they are a decent team, but hardly anything special, especially compared to the likes of Liverpool. It’s hard to believe they are even in the same pot!
Sadly though, there can’t be two clubs from the same country in the same group, so Sevilla or Spurs are probably the next best option. Sevilla are a very good side, but again I’d fancy our chances at Celtic Park against them. Spurs are also quite hit and miss. They have done much better in recent times since Conte has come in, but they rely very heavily on Kane and Son, a bit like Dortmund did with Haaland last season. If we got Spurs and Kane was missing, it would be a completely different game and we’d have a much better chance of taking points.
Pot 3 is as follows:
Borussia Dortmund, RB Salzburg, Shakhtar Donetsk, Inter, Napoli, Sporting, Bayer Leverkusen, TBC (most likely Benfica)
This group is much more consistent in terms of all the teams are at a pretty similar level to each other. But you would have to say Shakhtar Donetsk would be the easiest tie most likely, and we have a pretty successful history against them. Dortmund as we saw last season, could also be a decent draw, as they have some very good individual players but are very inconsistent, and are prone to getting humped a good few times each season, even domestically, and of course they no longer have Haaland in the team either.
Salzburg and Benfica are another two teams that I’d be content with getting, but I would definitely want to avoid the likes of Inter, Leverkusen and probably Napoli too.
Frankfurt, Sevilla, Shakhtar, Celtic
Fat chance we’ll be so fortunate, but if we get a group along those lines, then we could potentially be in for a very special season.