But, as Celtic occupy exactly that position a fiendishly daunting Group C of this season’s tournament, Brendan Rodgers continues to feel nothing but love from his club’s supporters.
Five months into his tenure at the Scottish champions, the euphoric faith in his ability to enhance the status and credibility of the team on the European stage, so evident on his arrival at the club, remains as strong as ever.
Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw against Borussia Monchengladbach in Germany ensured Celtic will go into their final two group stage fixtures with a chance of extending their stay in Europe into the new year.
But more significantly in Rodgers’ mind, it provided a clear indication that the players under his command are buying into both the tactical and psychological changes he is determined to instil at Celtic.
It is a process the former Liverpool boss insists can allow Celtic to successully translate their accustomed dominance of Scottish football into consistently competitive participation in Europe’s elite club competition.
“That’s my job over time, to give them that belief,” Rodgers reflected. “Our way of playing, the model we are trying to create, will give them that confidence.
“Domestically, we have aggression in our game, attacking intent in our game, and now it’s a case of rolling that out in European football.
“It’s never easy playing against a different quality of player in a faster game. But you see the improvement. We had a great performance in the 3-3 draw against Manchester City at home and should have won the game. And in Germany I felt we were the best team.
“It’s a huge credit to the players that they have the belief to go and do that. But when you have a record of – what was it? – just one win and a draw in 25 previous games in the Champions League group stage away from home then, of course, it can play on your mind a bit.
“It’s step by step. We need to create a playing style here and an identity that is going to allow us to have that confidence.
“I think that’s underway now and Monchengladbach was another example of the players adapting to the methods.
“I’m disappointed they didn’t win – but I think they take huge satisfaction from coming to a stadium like that against a top-- class team and playing that well. As I said, we should have taken three points instead of one. So it’s a big night for us in terms of what we are trying to do and the development of the team.”
Celtic’s path to the last 16 of the Champions League remains as complicated as it is surely unlikely. Rodgers’ men must win both of their last two games, at home to Barcelona on 23 November and away to Manchester City on 6 December, while also requiring Borussia to avoid defeat against City and then lose to Barcelona.
Finishing third in the group and relocating to the knockout phase of the Europa League is the more realistic ambition but Rodgers is simply contest his players will approach their task in buoyant mood.
“When you perform like we did away from home on Tuesday, it can give you huge confidence,” he added. “It sends us into our final games in the competition with great motivation to get results and that’s what we will look to do.
“I think it’s another huge step for the players. That was my message back at the hotel before we went to the stadium in Germany.
“We had played three games at this level and in one of the games we were very, very good – at home to Manchester City – and in the game at home to Borussia we were not so good when we lost 2-0.
“So what we saw in Germany was a personality in the team. To play well and have positive results at this level, you have to believe you can do it. They have shown domestically they are improving all the time – and the beauty of them is they will get better.
“But at Champions League level the game is much quicker. You have to think quicker, you have to move quicker. Tactically, you have to be very good.
“Obviously those first few games against some top sides have been a real test for us. But I think you saw on Tuesday that the players now have the confidence and ability to build the game from behind.
“They were calm, they got in good positions. They can take the ball under pressure, pass the ball and move off the ball and, as I said, it’s a much more enjoyable game when you play like that.
“When you haven’t got the ball, the basic mission is to recover it as quickly as you can. In Monchengladbach, what they did very well was press the game at the right times and forced them into mistakes.
“Then when they had to drop in, they showed good organisation to then defend and hit on the counter. It was very important in what we are trying to build and create.
“We are trying to create a team that can come into Europe and be a real threat, both away from home and at home, with a composure and a bravery on the ball.
“I said to the players afterwards that it’s much better to play like we did against Borussia than to camp in and defend for what seems like two days. I want my teams to have the confidence and belief to dominate, to create chances and play with aggression.
“We did that on Tuesday night. Scott Brown was outstanding, Stuart Armstrong and Tom Rogic were also very good in the midfield area and the front players were a threat. We should have won the game, but it was a really positive night in terms of Scottish football and, in particular, Celtic.
“We’ve played against two top sides in Manchester City and Borussia and were the better team. We were second best at home against Borussia, but we showed a marvellous response to that.
“For a lot of these players, it’s new to come away and create opportunities. It’s good to see and hopefully can continue to build. As I’ve said, the competition for us this year was really about improvement and I think you can see it from the game on Tuesday.”