Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Celtic & Rangers Aiming for Redemption in the Champions League

Celtic and Rangers mopped up all the major trophies in Scotland last season, but success in the respective European competitions eluded them again.

The Hoops won the Scottish Premiership and Scottish Cup, while Rangers claimed the Scottish League Cup. It was a completely different story in Europe.

Celtic were woeful in the Champions League, picking up just four points to finish bottom of a group containing Atletico Madrid, Lazio and Feyenoord. Rangers did not make it into UEFA’s top club competition, with a heavy aggregate play-off defeat against PSV Eindhoven consigning them to the Europa League.

They finished top of their group to progress to the last 16, but that was good as it got as Benfica knocked them out 3-2 on aggregate.

Scottish Duo Struggling to Compete in Europe

Celtic and Rangers are two powerhouses in British football but have consistently let down their supporters in Europe.

The Hoops were the first British team to win the European Cup in 1967 – a feat which sparked wild celebrations among their massive fanbase in Scotland and Ireland.

Their domestic exploits have helped them build up a huge following among sports bettors in their homeland and on the Emerald Isle, but they have been unable to add to their tally in Europe. Many of the best betting sites in Ireland are inundated with wagers from Celtic fans whenever they play in Europe, but they have avoided having to make consistent payouts.

The Hoops have been unable to upset the odds in the Champions League in recent years, with their last appearance in the knockout stage dating back to 2012/13. Rangers’ last foray into the Champions League group stage was in 2022/23 when they failed to pick up a point against Napoli, Liverpool and Ajax. It was statistically the worst group stage campaign in the tournament’s history, breaking Dinamo Zagreb’s 2011 record of zero points and a minus-19 goal difference.

Celtic and Rangers will have another chance at redemption next season. The former have already qualified for the group stage by winning the Scottish Premiership. Rangers must navigate the qualifying stage and will be eager to avoid a repeat of the embarrassment they suffered against PSV last season.

Ongoing Domestic Dominance Counts for Little

While Celtic and Rangers dominate domestically, their European campaigns paint a bleak picture, and there is no reason to believe the status quo will change anytime soon. The gap between them and Europe’s elite is widening each season. There are serious doubts about their ability to make a significant mark in the Champions League anytime soon.

After demolishing Rangers in the play-offs, Eredivisie champions PSV came into the Champions League and defeated Celtic when it mattered, showing the gulf in class. Rangers faced Benfica in the Europa League round of 16 of the Europa League, and they were unable to make further progress despite drawing the first leg in Portugal.

Celtic’s domestic dominance masks limitations exposed in Europe. Their squad does not hold up against tougher competition. They lack the quality to stand toe to toe with the continent’s best. Rangers’ struggles in Europe have shown their underlying weakness. Their last foray into the Champions League left a bitter taste, and they will be looking to avoid a similar embarrassment. Both teams are likely to be drawn into groups containing much stronger opposition, making progression highly improbable.

The financial disparity between Scotland and the top European leagues is another hurdle. Celtic and Rangers lack the resources to attract and retain top players, creating a talent pool gap that is difficult to overcome. This disparity makes it difficult for them to compete against teams built on the foundations of consistent Champions League revenue. Until there are significant improvements in squad depth, tactics and the overall competitiveness of Scottish football, their respective European journeys are likely to remain disappointing.