How can Celtic exceed expectations this season?

In a  follow-up to Ben Gray’s article ’61 not out! Will Brendan Rodgers’ invincibles ever lose a game in Scotland?’, Ese Agboaye provides his insight into Celtic’s season.

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So,  how can Celtic exceed expectation this season? Last season, they went unbeaten in the league, winning both the Scottish League Cup and the Scottish FA Cup. Let’s be honest here, going unbeaten was something special, but winning the treble, was what I expected of them.  So in my book, winning the treble wasn’t “exceeding expectation”. Having said that, let’s have a look at their performance in the Champions League last season.

Despite an inspiring 3-3 home draw against Manchester City, they finished bottom of their group (the worst finish for a champion since Manchester City in 2012). So, last season, they had a fairly “average” season. Now, I know there’ll be rage as I described their season as “average” given they won the treble, but how else was I supposed to describe their season when they were touted as favourites to win the treble?

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Other results included a 9-0 aggregate loss to Barcelona (having lost 7-0 in the first leg), a 1-1 away draw against Manchester City, and taking just one point from their two games against Borussia Monchengladbach.

For me, I think if Celtic retained the league title yet again, whilst going on a run in the Champions League (Round of 16 or quarterfinal), that’ll see them “exceed expectation” this season.

Let’s see how they’re doing this season.

In the league, they’re currently first, having dropped a total of six points so far this season. They’ve come from behind twice against St Johnstone, and Hibernian (both at home) to claim a point apiece. The other draw came against Kilmarnock, which was also at home, but they were in the lead before the “Killies” equalised. They are unbeaten in 13 league matches thus far, which extends to a 7-0 home win over Motherwell on the final weekend of the 2015-16 season, thus totalling to 52 matches unbeaten.

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In the Scottish League Cup, they’re through to the final after beating the likes of Kilmarnock, Dundee, and Hibernian to get to the showpiece match where there’ll play Motherwell, who beat Rangers in the other semi-final.

Whereas in the Champions League, they’ve started poor with heavy defeats to Paris St Germain, and Bayern Munich, but did pick up a key victory over Belgian champions, Anderlecht. Given that Celtic don’t have the easiest of groups with heavyweights PSG and Bayern Munich, I wouldn’t have expected them to qualify as first, or second in the group. Although I continue to hear that they’re supposedly a “big club” and If they going to live up to that title, they’ve got do something special and I’m not talking about a one-off victory like they did against Barcelona in 2012

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So, do I think Celtic are progressing this season? In all honesty, the only progression they’ve made so far is recording one win with four matches gone in the Champions League. Around this time last season, they had only managed to record a spirited 3-3 home draw against Manchester City.

 

I would disregard their performance in the league,  as they’re “favourites” to retain the league anyway. Even if they did lose their unbeaten run, they’d still do well enough to win a seventh successive league title. As for the cups, the probability of them beating Motherwell in the November final is very high, and the only way they’d impress me in the Scottish FA Cup is if they win the tournament, without conceding a single goal.

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All in all, Celtic have got some work to do if they are to reclaim their status as a “big club”.

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What do you think? What does Brendan Rodgers’ side need to do to improve on previous seasons? Let me know in comments below.

Feature image source: SK Rapid Wien vs Celtic Glasgow

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