Celtic's Champions League campaign examined: Expectation levels, chances of making it out of group, likely team to face Feyenoord
Placed in Group E alongside the Dutch champions, Spanish La Liga giants Atletico Madrid and Italian Serie A outfit Lazio, Brendan Rodgers’ men will be looking to improve on last season’s performance in the pool phase, where they finished bottom of a section containing Real Madrid, RB Leipzig and Shakhtar Donetsk, picking up two points.
While this group appears more navigable on paper given the lack of a stand-out team – Feyenoord are the top seed – Celtic will still have their work cut out to qualify for the last 16 given the ultra-competitive nature of the pool. The top two teams will advance to the knock-out stages of the tournament, while the third-placed team will drop down into the Europa Conference League play-off round. Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has already stated that his goal to keep the club in Europe beyond Christmas.
Celtic have two home matches against Atletico Madrid and Lazio to come in October after their visit to De Kuip. The finish up their campaign with a home match against Feyenoord in mid-December. The bookmakers make Celtic outsiders to qualify from the group, available at 2/1 to finish in the top two, while at 200/1, they are one of the longest shots to win the tournament, with defending champions Manchester City the favourites at 2/1.
For tonight’s match, which kicks off at 8pm and is live on TNT Sports (formerly BT Sport), Rodgers does have some selection issues to deal with, most notably in defence. Nat Phillips, on loan from Liverpool, is nursing an ankle knock after making his debut at the weekend against Dundee and if he is not passed fit to play, then Gustaf Lagerbielke will partner Liam Scales at centre-half. Striker Kyogo Furuhashi is nursing a long-term shoulder issue that flared up against the Dees but he is expected to lead the forward line in Rotterdam. Midfielder Reo Hatate is pushing for a start after returning to full fitness, with Rodgers perhaps tempted to play the Japanese ahead of David Turnbull to give his team more defensive cover.
Probable Celtic team to face Feyenoord: Hart; Johnston, Lagerbielke, Scales, Taylor; McGregor, Hatate, O’Riley; Yang, Furuhashi, Maeda.