Celtic head to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium next Wednesday to conclude their participation in European football for the season. With three defeats and two draws in Group F of the Champions League, Celtic already know their fate as the fourth seeds finishing bottom of the group. That though fails to tell the story of Celtic’s Champions League adventure this season under Ange Postecoglou.
Celtic have a very distinct style of football under the former Australia national coach and that was never going to change whether the Scottish Champions were playing Ross County or Real Madrid. Celtic took the game to all three Champions League opponents this season, the first in the Champions League for most of the squad, just four had previous experience – Callum McGregor and James Forrest at Celtic, Joe Hart with Manchester City and Giorgos Giakoumakis with AEK Athens.
Real Madrid top currently top Group F with 10 points while RB Leipzig have nine. Shakhtar Donetsk are on six while Celtic have just two. Yet Celtic have matched the European Champions on changes created with both well ahead of the other two clubs. The number of clear-cut chances missed by Celtic in all five matches so far has been extraordinary and that doesn’t include hitting the woodwork on a five occasions.
Celtic have contested all the matches, and really should have beaten Shakhtar on both occasions. However the explosive pace of Ukraine’s superstar in the making Mykhaylo Mudryk wiped out Celtic’s lead in the matches in Warsaw and in Glasgow.
Celtic’s stand-in skipper Cameron Carter Vickers, talked about Mudryk after the match on Tuesday night and admitted that he’s one of the best attackers he’s ever faced.
“I would say so. He’s very direct, very quick. He’s now scored two goals against us in two games, so you can see he’s also a very good finisher. He’s a top, top player with unbelievable pace. He’s a big threat. Listen, we of course knew that before the game. But obviously it’s still hard to deal with someone of that kind of pace,” the former Tottenham defender said post match at the media conference attended by The Celtic Star.
Mykhaylo Mudryk is valued by Shakhtar at around £50m, which is well beyond the reach of Celtic but don’t be surprised if Real Madrid or RB Leipzig acknowledge the player’s undoubted qualities and make a move in the winter transfer window, amid interest from both Arsenal and Everton.
Postecoglou never worries too much about results. For him it’s all about the performance levels and his team giving everything they’ve got, playing high tempo football and seeing where it gets them. It’s worked to a certain extent at Champions League level at the first time of asking. Celtic after a five year absence and after some humiliations under Brendan Rodgers against both PSG and Barcelona have reclaimed our status as a Champions League side. That’s very important to the Celtic support.
It had seemed that the boat had sailed without Celtic – the first club from Britain to win the European Cup – or indeed any Scottish club, given the huge differences in transfer budgets, television income and indeed UEFA payments. Yet Postecoglou’s team has played their brand of attacking football in the Champions League and in doing so has given the Celtic support back a belief that this team will be back next year ready to take their chances.
So Celtic won’t be parking the bus in the Bernabeu. Instead we’ll be playing football the Glasgow Celtic way. It will be well worth watching.
And Arsenal or Everton peeps, don’t forget the heads-up on Mykhaylo Mudryk. That boy is special, a superstar in the making.
David Faulds, The Celtic Star