The myth of great European nights at Celtic Park: they actually have a better record away from home in recent seasons

Celtic Park under the lights on a European night is often spoken about as some sort of spiritual, uplifting experience.
Neil Lennon wants Celtic to be more formidable at home in Europe. Picture: SNSNeil Lennon wants Celtic to be more formidable at home in Europe. Picture: SNS
Neil Lennon wants Celtic to be more formidable at home in Europe. Picture: SNS

The notion that Celtic acquire some sort of supernatural powers on such occasions is undermined by the hellish reality.

In their past four European group campaigns, Celtic have claimed only eight points from 12 home games. Across the same period, they have harvested 10 points on their travels.

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As a result, in three of their four most recent group campaigns, they have actually been more successful on the road than in their own environs.

Indeed, only when Neil Lennon guided the club to the Champions League last 16 in 2012-13 have Celtic avoided a home group stage defeat in almost a decade.

“We’ve got to try to get that back,” the Celtic manager acknowledged. “Press the restart button and get that home form as formidable as it once was. It’s not beyond us to do that.”

Against such a backdrop, it was painfully apposite that their Champions League aspirations this season should founder in the east end of Glasgow against a Cluj side who return to Celtic on Thursday on Europa League duty.

Lennon declares the nature of the goals coughed up in the 4-3 loss “freakish” .

“We handed them a couple at a really important time,” he said of his team failing to protect a 2-1 advantage and then a 3-2 lead. “And we haven’t shown signs of doing that in games before or after. Maybe it just wasn’t our night and we have to accept that. Since then the reaction has been spot on.”

Optimism that his team can put their last experience against Dan Petrescu’s team to rights is drawn from the maturity demonstrated in being unfortunate not to claim all three points away to Rennes in their Group E curtain-raiser the other week.

“I was surprised by how comfortable we were, I have to say,” Lennon said. “In the first half we had good control and were disappointed to be a goal down. But after about 15 or 20 minutes of the second half I could feel a real surge in our play.

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"The traffic was all one way towards their goal. We asked them to step it up a bit as it would have been a travesty had we played as well as that and lost. So we can take a lot of confidence from that performance.

"The only difference now is that we might be favourites going into this game and there will be an expectation that we are used to. But we have to enjoy it and relish it as we’ve worked hard to get into this position.”