Well, they might not have done it exactly as they planned or wanted to but Celtic have come through the group stages of the Europa League and made it to the last 32. Despite their 3-1 defeat by Salzburg at Parkhead, the surprise win by Astra against Dinamo Zagreb meant Celtic couldn’t be caught for second place even though there’s still a game remaining.
Although the group stages haven’t been what you’d call plain sailing, the Bhoys produced a couple of good results and deserved to go through. New coach Ronny Deila looks like he’s putting together a team that’s capable of playing very well on their day and now, after a slowish start, they’re back at the top of the Scottish Premier League. Some of the players he’s added as first-team regulars, like Jason Denayer, John Guidetti and Stefan Johansen, are proving useful as the coach builds up his own squad.
Of course, the best thing about making it through the group stages is that European football will continue for our fans, players and the club into next year. I can remember myself how special many of those nights of European football were at Parkhead. The great crowds created an amazing atmosphere and helped make things tough for any visiting team.
There will be a lot of good teams to go into the draw for the Europa League knockout. From the group stages, as well as Legia and Salzburg who have both already beaten Celtic this year, it looks like Fiorentina, Inter, Tottenham, Everton and Dinamo Moscow will be lining up in the draw, as well as those teams that come down from the Champions League. So another terrific night is assured.
I really hope Ronny and his squad can keep it going and make it all the way in this season’s Europa League. But there aren’t many easy games in European competitions and they deserve a pat on the back for making it this far.