We may only be in November but it is fair to say that the race for the Scottish Premiership has been all but won as Glasgow Celtic currently sit ten points clear at the top of the table with a game in a hand over nearest challengers, Aberdeen.
It looks as if Celtic are now set to secure a sixth consecutive Scottish top flight title, which will also be a first league title for Brendan Rodgers since he took charge of the club back in May
Such a title haul is impressive but let’s not forget this has been, in the main, a one horse race what with arch rivals Glasgow Rangers having had to work their way back up the league ladder after being demoted back in 2012. What has been disappointing from neutrals’ points of view is the fact that Rangers have failed to push Celtic on a domestic front since their big comeback.
Perhaps after promotion from the Championship last season that was going to be too much of an ask for Rangers this time around, but many will hope that once the blue half of Glasgow acclimatises to life in the Premiership they can then turn the competition into a two-horse race once again.
With domestic matters all but wrapped up, the focus now turns to Europe and this is where Rodgers will really be judged. When the draw for the Champions League group stages were made you always felt that Celtic were going to have an uphill task to make the Round of 16, what with them being paired with both Barcelona and Manchester City. And with them sitting bottom of the group after four matches, fears have been justified.
Life in the competition got off to the worst start possible as they went to Barcelona and were handed their worst ever European defeat when Lionel Messi and co ran riot in a 7-0 win at the Nou Camp. How different it could have been though had Moussa Dembele scored a first half penalty with the score at only 1-0 to the home side.
With Dembele seeing his penalty saved, Celtic went on to capitulate after the break in what was an embarrassing night for them, and one that highlighted the gulf in quality between the two sides. The hope after this game for Rodgers would have been that defeat to the Catalan giants would be the low point and it would only be up from there.
And you would have to say that their next performance was a massive improvement. They played out a stunning six-goal thriller with Manchester City, but after going ahead three times they then had to make do with as share of the points, but at least they were off the mark and their memories of Barcelona could be somewhat banished.
In fairness to Celtic, though, these opening two games were somewhat free hits. The key was how many points they could pick up in the pair of encounters with the group’s fourth side, German outfit Borussia Monchengladbach.
If Celtic were to have any realistic hope of reaching the knock-outs then they needed a maximum six-point haul from these two matches, unfortunately they picked up just one and are now clinging onto competition participation for dear life. Even Europa League entry for Celtic looks unlikely
And I guess the overriding issue for Celtic is no matter how much they dominate at home the fact that they are not being tested week in week out means they are more often than not exposed when going up against some of Europe’s biggest names.
Add the fact that the squad seems to regress in terms of quality over time and it makes the challenge of competing at Champions League level very difficult. Credit must go to the club for reaching the group stages this season after a long period of exile but they have struggled to really establish a foothold in this season’s competition.
On the balance of things, a more than probable league title and participation in Europe’s top club competition will still be deemed a successful first season for Rodgers. In a job where sometimes even winning the Scottish League is not enough, as the sacking of Ronny Deila proved, Celtic not only have to win, but win in style.
With no real challenge this campaign bar four feisty Old Firm matches, then many would have looked at Europe as the chance for a real test, but when the test results come back they will show that Celtic have failed at the very highest level.
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