CELTIC will feel that their performances in the Champions League this season have earned them the right to the largely upbeat appraisals that have followed, despite their lack of tangible rewards by way of points and victories. But taking on board the harsh lessons is also vital if they are to improve at the highest level, meaning brutal honesty is also required.

Ange Postecoglou is candid enough to recognise that fact, and acknowledging the shortcomings of his own team has been just as central to his reflections as accentuating the positives in the days since Celtic’s exit from European football was confirmed with the draw against Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday night.

There is little point, in the Celtic manager’s view, of airbrushing over their the weaknesses that were exposed. In Postecoglou’s mind, to deny them would be to squander the experience they have gained, with the only way to remedy their weaknesses being to confront them head on.

“I think we have been competitive in every game,” Postecoglou said. “But we also have to face the reality.

“We haven’t got what we wanted and we are disappointed in the outcome. There’s no point ignoring that fact.

“We were disappointed we drew the other night, which I think shows where our ambitions lie. We want to make an impact. We want to be a Champions League football club.

“Shakhtar have been in the Champions League for 10 or 11 years. I’m not sure why people didn’t expect them to be a strong team.

“If this was our fifth year in a row and we were falling short we’d be assessing things differently. But after a five year absence, the fact we have been competitive in every game, controlled matches at different times and created a lot of opportunities, that’s a base for us to keep growing from.

“That only happens if we get there again next year and the following year, and all the lessons we have learned can be put to good use.”

It was at the sharp ends of the pitch that Celtic ultimately fell short in the Champions League, with a lack of a clinical edge in attack proving costly and their defensive frailties on transition being gleefully exposed by opponents of such quality.

Starkly outlined, Postecoglou admits, when Mykhaylo Mudryk struck a brilliant equaliser against them during the week.

“To be fair our defensive structure was poor as much as anything the other night,” he said.

“It was a quality goal from a quality player. But if you give a quality player space…

“It’s something we’ve seen at Champions League level. You have to be disciplined for the whole game. We lost concentration for a moment. It was our set piece and we were pushing for a second goal, and left ourselves open. Quality players with that kind of room will punish you. 

“Again though. It’s kinda like you have to feel the pain of it to know you need to concentrate on the game at every single moment."

For now, Celtic’s concentration turns to the rather less salubrious surroundings of the Tony Macaroni Arena, where glamour may be in somewhat shorter supply, but another stern challenge is sure to await tomorrow lunchtime.

Celtic have of course had their problems at the venue in the past, and a defeat there early in Postecoglou’s reign last September proved the catalyst for a 38-game unbeaten domestic run.

Among those games was a revenge victory in Livingston in March, where the Celtic players handled the conditions and their opponents well to secure a 3-1 win, their first at the stadium since 2007.

As Rangers found last week though, David Martindale’s men can prove a tough nut for anyone to crack, and Postecoglou feels that Livi perhaps don’t get the credit they deserve for their evolution as a football team.

“It’s not just for us [that find it hard there],” he said. “It’s the same for most teams.

“It doesn’t matter if you’ve won or lost the previous game or games, the challenge remains the same.

“We didn’t handle it well in the first game [last season] but we did well in the second to get the result we wanted. That’s what we need again.

“There’s no right and wrong way to play the game, mate. I think people sell Livingston short if they think they are one dimensional. 

“They work awfully hard, but that’s the basis of every football team. It’s the basis of our team. That’s the bit people overlook. Those kinds of games are always a challenge irrespective of the style of play. 

“If you are up against a team who are going to work hard physically then you are in for a tough battle. It doesn’t matter where they are on the ladder or what style they play.

“Yeah, the styles between the sides might be a bit different. But both teams pride themselves on their hard work. From our perspective we need to match it.”

Captain Callum McGregor is still out through injury, but Carl Starfelt and Stephen Welsh are now training with the main group and are available for selection.

There may also be a return for Jota, with Postecoglou unconcerned about pitching the winger back into action on Livingston’s artificial surface.

“He’s gone through training so far and if he comes through [Saturday] again he’ll be fit and ready for the game,” he said.

“Hopefully we can get him back in.”