There was only one thought going through my mind watching tonight’s Rangers defeat away to Union SG in UEFA Champions League qualifying – thank goodness Celtic aren’t involved in this process.
If you’re not aware, last year’s Scottish Premiership runners-up lost 2-0 on the road in the third round of qualifying and have an uphill battle to overturn the deficit at Ibrox next week.
Now, that isn’t an impossible task. We know Rangers can be formidable at home in Europe. They could still go through. However, that’s not really the point, for us.
The point is, not going through this stress so early in the season is massive for everyone involved with Celtic – the players, the coaches, the money men and the supporters.
Sitting on the sidelines watching teams go through this isn’t something we’re used to.
Even during the years of winning title after title, we always had to qualify. Qualifying automatically for the big European tournament is something we haven’t enjoyed since way back in 2008.
Ange Postecoglou and his group of Celtic players are currently taking advantage of a free mid-week, with nothing to worry about other than a trip to Ross County this Saturday.
There are no early jaunts abroad, no pressure of attempting to secure Champions League riches and no setbacks against the momentum of a new season.
Last year, matches against Midtjylland, Jablonec and AZ Alkmaar deeply complicated our initial Scottish Premiership form, and ultimately we lost three of our first six league matches.
Suddenly Rangers are having to answer serious questions and prepare for a do-or-die clash at Ibrox next week, alongside the challenge of preparing for Kilmarnock this weekend. That’s the kind of dreaded scenario Celtic have avoided.
Winning the league last season was so important in many ways and tonight is a perfect illustration of one of the major benefits beyond the celebration and joyous moments.
Celtic are in an incredibly comfortable situation at the moment, and it’s something we must take advantage of with more positive results in the weeks ahead before our own European mission starts in September.
In other news, Experienced coach soothes Celtic Champions League concern; what Ange wants “deep down”.
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