Celtic FC in Europe 2013/14

The draw for the Champions League 2nd Qualifying Round will take place on Friday at 11am, with Celtic entering the “Champions section” at this stage.  They will be hoping to make it to the group stage for the second consecutive season, and will have to win three matches to do so.  Their 2nd Qualifying Round matches will take place on 16th/17th July and 23rd/24th July.

Celtic will be taking part in Europe for the 19th consecutive season, and their 49th season overall.  Rangers (51) are the only Scottish side with more appearances, though that record is likely to be surpassed by Celtic in the next few years.  It will be the Parkhead side’s 28th participation in Europe’s elite competition, a tournament which they famously won in Lisbon in 1967.

There are still a few countries which Celtic have yet to visit on European duty – most notably Bulgaria, Turkey, Cyprus & Northern Ireland.  Spanish clubs have provided the opposition most often – 30 times in total.  Their most frequent opponents are Barcelona, who they have now faced 10 times in Europe.  The map below shows the countries which Celtic have visited.  There are a few countries shaded in light green – these  countries have never actually been visited by Celtic but were part of USSR/Yugoslavia when Celtic played there.


The countries Celtic have visited on European duty.


The club have played 282 matches in European competition, winning 132, drawing 52 and losing 98 (this tally includes the actual on-field results for matches against Rapid Vienna and Sion which were later annulled/changed by UEFA).  It will come as no surprise to anyone that the vast majority of their defeats were away, and the vast majority of their wins at home.  Celtic have only lost 18 of their 139 home games in Europe, but have won just 36 out of 137 away from home.  This record has been taken to extremes in recent years, with a formidable home record often cancelled out by abysmal away form, though 2012/13 saw them pick up 3 wins out of 6 on the road.  Henrik Larsson is Celtic’s record European goalscorer – with 34 goals he has scored more than twice as many as any other player.

Celtic’s first European adventure came in the 1962/63 Fairs Cup, where they were drawn against Valencia in the 1st Round.  They travelled to the Mestalla for their first match, and came away with a 4-2 defeat, having trailed 3-0 at half-time.  Bobby Carroll scored both goals, becoming the club’s first ever European goalscorer.  The 2nd leg at Parkhead finished 2-2, meaning the Bhoys crashed to a 6-4 aggregate defeat in their first ever European tie.

The following season saw a more impressive run, this time in the Cup Winners’ Cup.  Basel, Dinamo Zagreb and Slovan Bratislava were dispatched on the way to the semi-final, and a 3-0 win over MTK Budapest at Celtic Park put them within touching distance of the final.  But an amazing turnaround in the 2nd leg (not uncommon in those days) saw Jimmy McGrory’s side lose 4-0 in Hungary to miss out on a chance of their first European trophy.

Two years later, with Celtic now managed by Jock Stein, they lost out at the same stage of the same tournament, having again won at home in the first leg.  Liverpool were beaten 1-0 at Celtic Park, but won 2-0 in a controversial 2nd leg at Anfield, which saw Celtic denied a late goal which would have taken them through to a Hampden final against Borussia Dortmund.  Celtic fans rioted after the final whistle, with cans and bottles raining down from the stand.

The next season, 1966/67, Stein took his side into the European Cup for the first time.  Victories over FC Zurich, Nantes and Vojvodina took Celtic into the semi-final, and this time they managed to hold on to a first-leg lead against Dukla Prague.  After a 3-1 win at Celtic Park, they drew 0-0 in Czechoslovakia to become the first British side to reach the final of Europe’s elite competition.  Stein took his side to Lisbon to face Helenio Herrera’s Internazionale side, famous exponents of the defensive “catenaccio” system.  Despite falling behind to a Sandro Mazzola penalty, Celtic fought back with goals from Tommy Gemmell and Stevie Chalmers to win their first, and so far only, European trophy.

Stein’s side were the first side outside of Spain, Portugal and Italy to win the trophy, ending the era of Southern European domination.  Only 1 of the next 17 trophies would go to clubs from one of those nations, but unfortunately Scotland weren’t amongst the winners again – 16 of the next 17 went to clubs from England, West Germany and the Netherlands.  Stein’s achievement was all the more remarkable given that all of his side were born within a 30 mile radius of Celtic Park.  1967 was an annus mirabilis for Scottish football – on top of Celtic’s win, Rangers reached the Cup Winners’ Cup final, and Killie made the semi-final of the Fairs Cup.  That same summer, Scotland recorded their famous 3-2 win over England at Wembley.

Celtic continued to be competitive in the European Cup during the remainder of the “9 in a row” years, regularly reaching the quarter-finals and semi-finals, and making it to another final in 1970.  This time, Stein couldn’t lead them to glory, as they lost 2-1 to Feyenoord in the San Siro, with Ove Kindvall scoring with less than 5 minutes of extra-time remaining.  Future Celtic manager Wim Jansen played in the Feyenoord midfield that night.

The end of the “9 in a row” era led to a huge downturn in fortune in European competition, something that wasn’t properly remedied until the eras of Martin O’Neill and Gordon Strachan.  Between 1974/75 and 2000/01, Celtic failed to progress through more than two ties in any season, suffering embarrassing defeats to the likes of Wacker Innsbruck, Politehnica Timisoara, Neuchatel Xamax and Croatia Zagreb.

In O’Neill’s 2nd season in charge (2001/02), he took Celtic into the Champions League group stage for the first time, thanks to an impressive 3-1 win away to Ajax.  In the group stagea they were drawn gainst Juventus, Porto and Rosenborg.  Celtic won all 3 home matches, but could only finish 3rd after losing each of their away games – something that they would become used to over the next few years.

The following year, they suffered a disappointing elimination in the Champions League qualifier against Basel, but it would prove to be a blessing in disguise, as they dropped down into the UEFA Cup.  Heavily inspired by 11 goals from Henrik Larsson, they eliminated Suduva, Blackburn, Celta Vigo, Stuttgart, Liverpool and Boavista to reach the final in Seville against Jose Mourinho’s Porto.  Despite a double from Larsson in the final, Porto came out on top, winning 3-2 after extra-time.  Mourinho’s side would go on to win the Champions League the following season.  Celtic were awarded the FIFA Fair Play Awarded for the behaviour of their supporters before, during, and after the final.

O’Neill got his side into the Champions League group stage on two further occasions, but again failed to get them into the knock-out stages.  In 2003/04, they were heading through with 5 minutes to go, before Bobo Balde decided to play basketball in his own box, giving Lyon a penalty and progression.  That led to another UEFA Cup run, with 19 year-old David Marshall turning in a sensational performance in the Nou Camp to eliminate Barcelona in the last 16, before Villarreal eliminated them in the quarter-final.

Gordon Strachan would succeed where O’Neill failed, but only after an ignominous start.  In his first match in charge, they suffered a 5-0 defeat away to Artmedia Bratislava in the 2005/06 Champions League.  Despite a battling display at Celtic Park, they failed to overturn the deficit, winning 4-0 but losing out 5-4 on aggregate.

Strachan would redeem himself the following season, squeezing through a Champions League group containing Manchester United, FC Copenhagen and Benfica, courtesy of 3 home wins.  Again, they lost all of their away matches, but it didn’t matter this time.  Progression was secured with a game to spare after a Shunsuke Nakamura free-kick and an Artur Boruc penalty save secured a 1-0 home win over Man Utd.  They were drawn against AC Milan in the last 16, and turned in two outstanding defensive displays to keep things goalless after 180 minutes, before Kaka broke their hearts in extra-time in the San Siro.

The following season, they again reached the last 16 with 3 home wins and 3 away defeats in the groups – this time against AC Milan, Shakhtar Donetsk and Benfica.  Barcelona lay in wait in the knock-out stages, and Lionel Messi inspired them to a 3-2 win at Celtic Park, although Celtic led twice thanks to Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Barry Robson.  Xavi scored the only goal in the Nou Camp to see Barcelona comfortably through.

Strachan’s side failed to make an impact in the group stage during his last season in charge, and all Tony Mowbray had to show for his short spell in charge was a 2-0 away win against Dynamo Moscow, which was rare and impressive in equal measures.  Neil Lennon had a difficult start in Europe, losing out to Braga and Utrecht in his first season in charge, then failing on the pitch against Sion before being reprieved by UEFA.  They gave a better account of themselves in a tough group containing eventual winners Atletico Madrid plus Rennes and Udinese, but ultimately failed to progress, finishing 3rd.

But Lennon and his side had a much more impressive season last year.  After comfortably dispatching HJK Helsinki and Helsingborg in the qualifying rounds, they reached the Champions League group stage, where they were drawn with Barcelona, Benfica and Spartak Moscow.  The campaign kicked off with a disappointing draw at home to Benfica, but a sensational 3-2 win away to Spartak Moscow (their first away group stage win) put them in a strong position heading into a double header against Barcelona.

There was late disappointment at the Nou Camp, as Jordi Alba scored a last gasp winner to deny Celtic a point, but they took revenge a fortnight later when goals from Victor Wanyama and Tony Watt sealed a famous 2-1 win over the Catalan giants.  A score draw away to Benfica in the next match would have taken Celtic through, but a 2-1 defeat meant that qualification went down to the final match.  Kris Commons scored a crucial late penalty to seal a 2-1 win over Spartak Moscow at Celtic Park, taking Celtic into the last 16.  Italian champions Juventus proved too strong for Celtic, winning 3-0 at Celtic Park and 2-0 in Turin to end a memorable campaign for Neil Lennon’s men.

2013/14 Champions League

Celtic will have to progress through three qualifying rounds to reach the group stage. Their task is made easier by the fact that they are in the “Champions” section, meaning they will face champions of other small countries and avoid sides from the bigger nations.  Celtic’s high UEFA coefficient means that they will be seeded in each of the three qualifying rounds, and as such should be expected to make it through.

The draws for the 1st and 2nd Qualifying Round are held at the same time, meaning that the outcome of the 1st Qualifying Round is not known at the time of the draw.  This means that Celtic could end up in a situation where they don’t know who they will play until a week before their match (there is around a 12% chance of this happening).  For the purposes of the 2nd Qualifying Round draw, UEFA assume that the seeded side will win in each of the 1st Qualifying Round ties.

1st Qualifying Round

Matches: 2nd/3rd July & 9th/10th July

Celtic will not take part in this round, but as mentioned above, they could end up facing one of the winners in the next round.  Only 4 teams participate in this round – the champions of the 4 lowest ranked UEFA nations (excluding Gibaltar, who joined too late to participate this season).


2nd Qualifying Round

Matches: 16th/17th July & 23rd/24th July

The two winners from the 1st Qualifying Round will be joined by 32 other teams, including Celtic.  These sides are the champions of the nations ranked 16th-49th by UEFA (excluding Liechtenstein, who do not have a league and thus are not eligible for Champions League entry).

If Celtic are eliminated at this stage, they do NOT drop down into the Europa League and would be out of Europe completely.

The seedings for the 2nd Qualifying Round are listed below.  The sides in blue and italics enter at the 1st Qualifying Round, and could therefore be replaced by the unseeded sides from that round (see the list above).


This draw is often split into north/south regional sections for UEFA, but these are often not released publicly until after the draw.  If that is the case, Celtic’s likely opponents would be Hafnafjordur, TNS, Sligo Rovers, EB Streymur (or QR1 opponents), Cliftonville, Daugava Daugavpils, Nomme Kalju or Fola Esch.

3rd Qualifying Round

Matches: 30th/31st July & 6th/7th August

The 17 winners from the 2nd Qualifying Round will joined by FC Basel, APOEL Nicosia and Austria Vienna (the champions of the nations ranked 14th-16th by UEFA.  This round will be drawn before the 2nd Qualifying Round is complete, so again UEFA will assume that the seeded sides from the 2nd Qualifying Round win when deciding seedings for this round.  If Celtic make it through, they are guaranteed to be seeded for the 3rd Qualifying Round.

Should Celtic lose at this stage, they would drop down into the Europa League Play-off Round.

The seedings for the 3rd Qualifying Round are listed below.  The clubs in blue and italics are the seeded sides from the 2nd Qualifying Round – if these sides lose in that round, they will be replaced by the side who beat them, but the seeding would be unchanged.


Play-off Round

Matches: 20th/21st August & 27th/28 August

The 10 winners from the 3rd Qualifying Round will progress to this round.  Celtic are guaranteed to be seeded if they make it to this round, and are guaranteed to avoid FC Basel, BATE Borisov, Steaua Bucharest and APOEL Nicosia should those sides progress.  They could potentially face any of the other sides listed above.Should Celtic lose at this stage, they would drop down into the Europa League group stage.

Group Stage

Matches: 17th/18th September, 1st/2nd October, 22nd/23rd October, 5th/6th November, 26th/27th November & 10th/11th December

The group stage is obviously still a long way away for Celtic, though the seeding suggests they should get there.  If they do make it to the group stage, it is almost certain that they would be in Pot 4 (the lowest pot) for the group stage draw.  There is a theoretical chance of them being in Pot 3, but that would require a host of unlikely results across the qualification rounds.

About SPLstats
Providing statistics and trivia about Scottish football. Main focus is the Scottish Premiership, but all Scottish football will be covered. Not affiliated to the SPFL.

2 Responses to Celtic FC in Europe 2013/14

  1. Colm says:

    What about the other sides entering the play off round? Lyon, Arsenal, Leverkusen, Sociedad etc. Is there a list of the teams coming in at this stage?

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