ANGE POSTECOGLOU has urged his Celtic players to come back stronger in next season’s Champions League, and ensure the experience they have gained in this season’s competition hasn’t been in vain.

Celtic’s hopes of securing European football into the New Year were extinguished on Tuesday night as they were held to a 1-1 draw against Shakhtar Donetsk in Glasgow, with Postecoglou’s team having picked up just two points from their five group stage matches so far.

The Celtic manager has been encouraged though by the way his team have competed in each game they have gone into despite their meagre points tally, and says they will grow into being a force to be reckoned with at such a level the more his players are exposed to it.

“It’s up to us to make sure we’re here again next year,” Postecoglou said. “That’s part of the process. 

“You can’t go into this competition every five years and expect to make an impact. 

“The first challenge for us is to become a Champions League football club and have this every year. 

“What we’ve gone through this year, the way we have tested ourselves, there’s no doubt that this group of players will be much better for it. 

“We’ve understood exactly from the first game what’s required and the levels needed. 

“There’s an understanding of the fine lines between winning a game and not winning a game. 

“I definitely think that this year will help us with the challenges. [We need to] qualify again next year and the year after, consistently be at this level and expose your players to this level of football. 

“Again, this is a group who are very, very inexperienced at this level. Look back at where most of them were playing 12 months ago.  A lot of them have got experience at other clubs. Us as a football club haven’t experienced Champions League for five years. 

“We’ve got a list of players who this is their first time. It will be a missed opportunity if we don’t qualify next year. 

“What we’ve gained this year will help us become a better football club at this level.”