JOHN Collins has called for a change to the Champions League qualifying system which he insists currently sees Celtic being penalised for the failures of their fellow Scottish clubs.
For the third successive season, Celtic must negotiate three qualifying rounds if they are to reach the lucrative group stage of Europe’s elite club tournament.
Scotland’s Uefa co-efficient ranking has crumbled in recent years, leading to Celtic’s earlier entry to the tournament. Ahead of Monday’s draw in Switzerland, Celtic assistant manager Collins believes clubs should be ranked individually rather than on the collective efforts of teams from their nations.
“I think it is 100 per cent not fair and maybe it’s a discussion which can be had with Uefa in the future and that it can be changed,” said Collins.
“Celtic, in the last decade or so, have generally done very well in Champions League qualifiers.
“So I find it unfortunate that we have been held back by the coefficient points accumulated by the rest of the Scottish teams.
“We have kind of been punished for that, which is unfair when you consider some of the special nights Celtic have had in the Champions League.
“I don’t think it’s a fair system. It should be a club system rather than a country system. At the moment, it benefits the bigger countries which I don’t think is fair.”
Regardless of his discontent at the amount of hurdles Celtic have to overcome to get there, Collins is confident they will improve on last season’s dismal campaign which saw them lose twice in the qualifiers, eliminated by Maribor in the play-off round after receiving a reprieve for their 6-1 aggregate drubbing by Legia Warsaw in the previous round because the Polish side fielded an ineligible player. “It’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be tough again,” he added. “But we have a good group of players.
“What happened last year was disappointing, but the bottom line is that we weren’t good enough this time last year. We didn’t qualify because we didn’t produce on the night.
“I don’t think there is any doubt we will be better this time. This time last year the players were coming into a new management team in Ronny Deila and myself.
“The management team were inheriting a new group of players. We have had 12 months since then of working on the training pitch, getting to know the players and them getting to know us.
“They know what is expected of them on a daily basis and what is expected of them in the matches with and without the ball. So we are, in my opinion, way ahead of where we were this time last year.”
For Collins, reaching the group stage of a competition he feels is now superior to even the World Cup finals should be top of Celtic’s wish-list for the new season.
“The Champions League is the ultimate football tournament,” he said. “It’s where everyone wants to be – whether it’s players, coaches, managers or supporters. I think it’s better than the World Cup because the teams in the Champions League now are world selects. Real Madrid and Barcelona are world selects – they would beat Brazil or Argentina.
“The reality now is the best teams in the Champions League are the best teams in the world, better than national teams.”