Celtic: Bhoys should show no fear in Europe
I have to admit to being slightly worried about Celtic’s sense of self-belief. The club has recently beaten HJK Helsinki 4-1 on aggregate to reach the play-off round of the Champions League and there is an atmosphere of celebration about the place at Parkhead. Of course winning the tie is very important, and it is nice to manage a 2-0 victory on the road in Europe, but HJK Helsinki are not to be marvelled at for a club of Celtic’s size.
The play-off round of the draw sees Celtic square up against Helsingborgs. Henrik Larsson is a graduate of both clubs and has admitted to mixed emotions about the game. He is talking up the chances of both clubs, but Henrik is playing a PR game and he knows fine well that a defeat for Celtic in such a tie would be a huge embarrassment.
The manager of Helsingborgs however is overjoyed at the prospect of getting Celtic and was apparently told by Martin O’Neill that it was the easiest draw they could have gotten in the play-off round. Apart from a statement of confidence from Mikel Lustig there have not been too many people at Parkhead willing to assert their superiority ahead of this fixture.
Celtic may be taking the competition one game at a time and are reflecting a huge amount respect onto Helsingborgs in order to avoid complacency and ensure a safe passage into the group stages, but on the other hand perhaps they are genuinely concerned that they cannot handle the current Swedish champions.
Similar noises came out of Parkhead in advance of the HJK fixture and the team appeared to genuinely fear HJK over the first 90 minutes. It took the second leg for them to realise they are far superior to HJK.
Neil Lennon must enforce a mentality into this squad that a victory over Helsingborgs and qualification into the Champions League is nothing to celebrate at Celtic. Getting to the Champions League is not a huge achievement for a club of Celtic's stature; they should be there every year. European football has been a fiasco at Parkhead ever since Gordon Strachan stepped down as manager. Clubs like Utrecht, Braga and Sion have easily turned Celtic over in recent seasons and a mentality is developing that Celtic are a smaller club because they play in Scotland.
This is nonsense. It’s time for Celtic to step up to the mark and spend the next three seasons playing consistently in the Champions League. It has nothing to do with the £15 million or the business model; it is simply because the Champions League group stage is the level that Celtic are at.
It is painful to see the lack of confidence in the Scottish game today. I am all for celebrating victories against AC Milan, Benfica or Manchester United, but I will not be celebrating a victory over Helsingborgs. When the job is done I will exhale deeply in relief and then the celebrations can begin if Celtic get some results in the group stage proper.
Article by Jim Barry
Calling all Celtic fans: Do you agree with Jim? Should Celtic have more confidence in their own ability and not be celebrating wins over Helsinki? Does Neil Lennon's side have enough about them to get into the group stages? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.