Football

Celtic need a miracle to make the last 16

Georgios Samaras had chances to put Celtic in front (©GettyImages)
Georgios Samaras had chances to put Celtic in front (©GettyImages).

Celtic's Champions League ambitions have already taken a massive blow after AC Milan netted twice in the last 10 minutes to send the Scottish Champions home without a point.

It may be harsh to question Celtic's chances after just one match, played away from home against one of Europe's great Champions League sides. Yet, this Celtic side find themselves in arguably the competition's toughest group and need every point they can get if they are to progress as they did last season.

With Neil Lennon's side drawn against Barcelona for the second season in a row, the Celtic manager would rightly have been upset with the draw that pairs Celtic with the Spanish Champions, Dutch Champions Ajax and Italian giants AC Milan.

Although Lennon enjoyed a win and a narrow loss against Barcelona last season, lightening very rarely strikes twice.

Barcelona may have been guilty of a little complacency against Celtic last year and will certainly not be making that mistake again after seeing first-hand what Celtic can do at home. Having added Neymar in a summer in which Celtic lost Victor Wanyama and Gary Hooper -two of their best players - Barcelona should leave Celtic Park on October 1 with a better result before winning more comfortably when Celtic visit the Camp Nou.

The unlikeness of a result against Barcelona made the trip to the San Siro even more important. However, the Glasgow side took nothing from the match despite creating many chances and holding their own for the majority of the encounter.

Not many sides get four shots on target at the San Siro, yet that is exactly what Celtic achieved. Georgios Samaras had a couple of good chances, but saw a shot curl just wide and a header blocked.

Anthony Stokes saw a free-kick come back off the woodwork, while Charlie Mulgrew's indirect free-kick was charged down and blocked. Captain Scott Brown also had a fantastic opportunity in the second half, but an excellent block from Nigel de Jong sent the ball safely to the keeper.

Milan then saw Cristian Zapata's strike deflected past Fraser Forster in the 81st minute before Muntari tapped in the rebound to Balotelli's free-kick three minutes later to send the San Siro support home relieved.

What next?

Celtic next host Barcelona, but their fate will really be decided in the double header against Ajax, who went down 4-0 in Catalonia this week. A win at home won't be enough to see them challenge for a place in the next round - they will need a result in Amsterdam as well.

With a trip to the Camp Nou on the last matchday, the return match on November 26 against AC Milan could be another 'must-win'.

Nine points don't always see a side progress in Europe, yet Celtic will need a lot of big performances against Ajax and Milan to even get close to that figure. Progressing from this group would be the biggest achievement in Celtic's recent history.

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Topics:
UEFA Champions League
Football

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