Celtic can shout louder than you: Champions League review

Jeff J Mitchell

Celtic revel in the patronising spirit which thanked them for losing a winnable game, while Dortmund showed there might yet be life left in Jurgen Klopp's project.

After Celtic limped off the pitch having suffered a slightly unfortunate 1-0 home defeat to Barcelona, this was the reaction from the club's website. It's an odd reaction, living up to all the patronising from pundits for whom Celtic are like a distant relative they see twice a year. "Paradise." "Unrivalled in football." A strange blend of small-time parochialism to react to what, on paper, is actually a decent result.

If the relative results are taken as a comparison of both teams to last year, it says a lot more about Celtic's regression than Barcelona's progress. Celtic's failure to replace the players they sold in the summer (most notably Victor Wanyama, which left them fielding an immobile centre-back in midfield) gave them a far bigger disadvantage compared to last year's encounter than even Barcelona's loss of Lionel Messi.

There's an impossibility to being Celtic - they've been patronised as brave for two results against Barcelona and Milan which were very narrow defeats considering the gulf in riches between the two clubs, but they also both turned out to be excellent opportunities and very winnable games which were squandered.

Some have blamed Neil Lennon for the club's failings. But while it's true that the club have been disappointing domestically, they still cantered to an easy league title, so removing him on that basis seems pointless. And in Europe, it's difficult to tell how typical it is to have close games with Milan and Barcelona, rather than just being steamrolled 4-0 with ease. It's said it's the hope that kills you, but given the impossible task Celtic have in going up against true giants, it's questionable whether it's right to have the hope in the first place (this column will, obviously, avoid making any cheap gags about Catholic guilt here.)

If Lennon ever decides to follow Gary Hooper and trade in the great European nights for flailing around in mid-table in the Premier League, he should be easily replaceable for Celtic, and it's highly unlikely that he's been the font of their recent (relative) success in Europe.

Unfortunately, it's virtually impossible to gauge the level the club should be competing at. Before Rangers bit the dust, they were a far worse side that regularly prevailed in the league thanks to their greater know-how and cynicism, and if those days ever come back, then the reduction of Scotland's coefficient to leave the SPL with only one Champions League spot might need someone a bit more reliable in charge. And even without Neil Lennon, they will at least be able to shout very loud.

*    *    *

Marseille are a decent side, so Dortmund's 3-0 victory against them last night is more than a reasonable result. It was aided by some utterly anaemic attacking from the visitors, and two of the goals were very fortunate, but at the same time, Dortmund never allowed their opponents to get near them, and were well worth the result.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrik Mykhitaryan have, at various points, looked like perfect replacements for Dortmund's outgoing talent, and significant downgrades who will oversee a slow decline into the club inevitably failing to compete at the level of sides with far greater riches and prestige. They are in a familiar position, along with the big fish in small ponds like Porto and Ajax, of having to constantly change their side just to remain at the same level.

Mykhitaryan is a strange player, and his performance last night pretty much summed him up. He was simultaneously the best and worst player in the side, creating almost all of Dortmund's attacking opportunities and wasting most of them with some poor decision making around the area. Aubemayang has seemed to be either unplayable or, as he was last night, heavily sidelined.

A 3-0 victory is a 3-0 victory, but the obvious gulf in quality means there's little to be learned. Dortmund's success or failure depends on whether these new additions can display not only the consistency to compete in the Bundesliga, but also be reliable enough to make the difference in the later stages of the competition. Last year's final appearance could very easily be the high water mark of Jurgen Klopp's reign.

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