'We have got a star on our badge as well you know': Celtic are not just here to make up the numbers

Celtic midfielder Matt O’Riley has experienced one of the most rapid ascensions to the top table of European football, but there is little doubt he and his team-mates feel they can make an impact at Champions League.

Matt O'Riley is ready to make his Champions League bow when Celtic play Real Madrid.
Matt O'Riley is ready to make his Champions League bow when Celtic play Real Madrid.

Less than a year ago, O’Riley was playing in England’s League One for MK Dons against the likes of Cheltenham Town. Now he is preparing to face Luka Modric et al in the midfield battle when the reigning European champions arrive at Celtic Park

Celtic also take on RB Leipzig of Germany and Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk in a competitive Group F and O’Riley says there is inner confidence that they can firstly spring a surprise on Real Madrid and also progress into the knock-out stages.

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The possibility of success came up at a team meeting over lunch on Tuesday, where the Celtic players allowed themselves to focus on Real Madrid after thrashing Glasgow rivals Rangers 4-0 at the weekend. “We were all just there,” said O’Riley. “Naturally people are starting to think about it more now. It came up in conversation. I heard someone saying: ‘I think we have got a good chance’. We all just bit on it and agreed. We are not going to go into the game and not give it a go. If we don’t believe we can win you will be able to see that right from the off. Hopefully you will see a team that is right on it and really wants to win.

“Celtic are a big club. We have got a star on our badge as well you know. That says something in itself. To be honest, when you’re at Celtic Park with the atmosphere in those stands anything can happen. It’s been proven in the past. So why not?”

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O’Riley joined Celtic in January this year but has established himself as key part of the team. Even he has to pinch himself at the journey he is on.

“Things have changed quite a lot since then,” the Dane was asked about the situation a year ago. “Back then I wouldn’t have expected to be where I am now but all the hard work has paid off and I’m in a good place.”