How Celtic can secure European football after Christmas following Ferencvaros win in Europa League

A simple equation has been formulated for Celtic courtesy of their 2-0 success at home to Ferencvaros in the Europa League this week: win the return fixture in Budapest on November 4 and European football post-Christmas will be guaranteed.

Celtic players celebrates with the fans after defeating Ferencvaros at Celtic Park on October 19, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

That is the least acceptable outcome for Ange Postecoglou and his men, though.

The cross-border competition assured would be in the Conference League knock-out stages. In the newly-redrawn format ensuing from establishing a third-string tournament, teams finishing third across the eight Europa League groups drop down to face second-placed sides in the eight Conference League sections for berths in the last 16 stage.

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This apes the set-up in the Europa League, where group runners-up have a preliminary round against the eight third-placed Champions League drop-outs to progress to the same point of the secondary competition.

If Celtic emerge from their Ferencvaros jaunt with a six-point haul from Group G with two games to play, their vanquished, pointless opponents would be condemned to finish fourth - even with a possible six points to play for (in hardly winnable encounters away to Real Betis and at home to Bayer Leverkusen). That would be owed to their unfavourable head-to-head record against Celtic.

What Celtic need from others

Yet should Postecoglou’s side do the double over the Hungarians they will retain belief in being able to squeeze between Leverkusen and Betis to reach the quasi-last 32 stage of the Europa League. However, the possibility of them doing so requires puzzling possible future events on a scale to make the mightiest clairvoyant baulk.

On the apparent strength of both sides from the displays in their Celtic wins, the Parkhead men will hope Leverkusen can put their Spanish rivals to the sword both home and away in the next fortnight or so, the pair squaring up in Germany on Thursday. In that scenario, Celtic - assuming they prospered in Budapest - would have six points going into their Leverkusen-staged clash on November 25, against a home side that would be already certain of topping Group G in then boasting 12 points. A haul that would leave Betis on six.

Intriguing potentials would be raised for Celtic were events to unfold in such fashion.

Going head-to-head at Parkhead in December?

If Postecoglou’s men could take anything from a tie that would surely see them pitted against a fringe-ish host, it would mean that, however Betis fared when entertaining huge underdogs Ferencvaros, they could usurp the Spaniards by beating them at Parkhead in their group closer on December 9.

Far more likely is Celtic losing as Betis scoop full points. In that event - again based on the Glasgow side and Leverkusen enjoying clean sweeps from their current Group G double-headers - Postecoglou’s side would require to beat Betis by two clear goals to pip them for second place, having lost 4-3 in Seville. Again, all about the head-to-head record separating teams on the same points, this projection giving the two clubs nine totals.

Meanwhile, were Betis to do a number of Leverkusen across these teams’ two meetings, or even share the points with a win apiece, Celtic would seriously struggle to have a future in the Europa League.

It would be different if Leverkusen and Betis fought out two draws...But that really does take you into head-hurting territory.

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