That AZ is not in the group stage of the Europa League is the ‘fault’ of Celtic. The Scottish top club was too strong over 2 matches. Last season, however, after 9 national titles in a row, Celtic was defeated in the national competition by fellow townsman and arch-rival Rangers FC. Is there a changing of the guard in Scotland?
Sportnieuws.nl spoke with Tom English, an expert on Scottish football and reporter at the BBC, about the state of affairs in Glasgow and the surrounding area. “Celtic was very lucky in the 2nd match against AZ. But I think last season’s Celtic would not have happened,” said English.
Eternal battle Celtic vs. rangers
It has been 37 years since the last time Celtic or Rangers were crowned champions of Scotland. In the 1984/85 season, Aberdeen won its 2nd title in a row. Between 2011 and 2020, the championship went to Celtic 9 times in a row, but last season Rangers, led by coach Steven Gerrard, broke that streak.
Rangers became national champions, with no less than 25 points ahead of great rival Celtic. “I also have to say: I did not expect such a season,” Engels looks back on the 2020/21 season. “It’s really because of 2 things: Celtic were really bad and Rangers were very good. It was also a big goal of Gerrard and Rangers to become champions. And they have done that.”
Celtic fans not used to losing
Despite the disappointing last season, Celtic qualified for the main tournament of the Europa League by eliminating AZ in 2 matches. In the national competition, the team has 6 points after 4 matches. So no super start. “For Celtic it’s a fresh start, to rebuild after last season,” said English. “That was a really disastrous year, both on and off the field. The gap to Rangers was huge.”
“The fans were furious with the poor performance, especially after 9 years of success. Now they are suddenly having bad times. That Rangers beat them made it even worse,” explains English. “Celtic fans love the rivalry with Rangers, but only if they win and prefer to humiliate the opponent.”
Both Celtic and Rangers FC are active in the Europa League this season. English explains that it will be an exciting and beautiful series for Celtic, with matches in the group stage against Bayer Leverkusen, Ferencvaros and Real Betis. “Ferencvaros eliminated Celtic last season in the preliminary round of the Champions League,” said English. “And Betis is special because Celtic played the final of the UEFA Cup (now called Europa League, ed.) in Seville in 2003. It’s nice for the fans to return there, a nice memory of better times.”
Rangers is divided into a group with the Olympique Lyon of trainer Peter Bosz, Sparta Prague and Brøndby IF.Rangers is 1st, with 1 point ahead of Hibernian and Hearts. Celtic are 5th with 9 points. “I am convinced that Celtic and Rangers will come together again at some point and that one of them will become champion,” said English. Those clubs are bigger and that always has an influence.”