Owen Coyle: Last-16 rivals will be alert to Celtic home record

CELTIC’S Champions League adventure is guaranteed to remain live for at least the first leg of their last 16 tie, Owen Coyle confidently predicts.

Neil Lennon’s men will discover their opponents for the knock-out stages in tomorrow’s draw, but Coyle considers the club’s home record in the competition proper – with only two defeats in 23 encounters – will allow the Scottish champions to put pressure on whatever side is set against them in the February match-ups.

Coyle, currently a resting manager following his dismissal by Bolton Wanderers in October, covered Celtic’s last four Champions League games for radio. He was present in the east end of Glasgow for the wins over Barcelona and Spartak Moscow that allowed the club to become Scotland’s first representatives in the last 16 of the competition for five years. He is convinced these victories, and the sequence they have strengthened, won’t have escaped the attentions of possible opponents Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund, Schalke, Paris Saint-Germain and Malaga, even though all would favour a tie taking them to Scotland above any other.

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“Celtic acquitted themselves really well,” Coyle said of their ten-point haul in a section also containing Benfica.“The other thing they needed was a bit of luck and they have carried that at times. Regardless of who they now face, their Champions League home record is incredible and they will be aware of that. The first leg is at home, so I think, regardless of who they play, they will be in good shape going into the second leg.”

“The draw is exciting not only for Celtic but Scottish football. Regardless of who they play, I think they will make a real fist of it. And who is to say they can’t progress?”

Coyle sees Celtic’s progress as perception-altering. Celtic chief scout John Park’s stock has never been higher with Victor Wanyama transformed from a £900,000 signing to a £10m player in the same season Ki Sung-Yeung was sold for a £5m profit.

Coyle also delights in the credibility Celtic’s efforts have earned Scottish football south of the Border. “At Bolton, we would travel to a game and Sandy Stewart used to put the live Scottish game on. The boys at the back of the bus would be all: ‘What’s that rubbish?’ They tried to rile the Scottish contingent to a point where we used to put it on just to annoy them.

“But when Celtic and Rangers are doing well in Europe you say: ‘There you go.’ There are teams you perceive not to be big clubs, yet they are carrying all before them. I think it gives everybody a lift.”