As the win against Aberdeen, international break and soothing bedtime reading afforded by reading Rangers’ 2022-23 Annual Report and Accounts deflect attention away from the recent mauling in Madrid, it is worth reflecting on Celtic’s away European record given the upcoming Lazio clash.

Some were calling the performance a disgrace while others pointed to mitigating circumstances, mainly an early harsh red card for Daizen Maeda (this removing Celtic’s primary pressing threat) and simply the vast quality differential between the squads.

However, the question must be asked: how many times do Celtic fall into the same traps in Champions League away games?

If one was setting up a team for a tough away game, there are probably some scenarios you want to avoid so that morale stays high, and you remain competitive in the fixture.

These would be:

1. Don’t concede an early goal (first 10 minutes) – immediately dampens morale and may change the game plan.

2. Don’t concede late in the first half (last five minutes) – changes the half-time team talk.

3. Don’t concede immediately after half time (first five minutes) – throws half-time team talk out window.

4. Don’t concede late (last ten minutes) – very difficult to recover and set mindset to work to the final whistle.

5. Don’t concede 10 minutes after scoring – erodes hard won confidence, speaks to lack of concentration.

6. Don’t give away a penalty – easy chances for opposition.

7. Don’t get a man sent off – makes a tough assignment very hard indeed.

At any level of football, you want your team to be mindful of the above. Let’s now look at Celtic in Champions League away games.

Same As It Ever Was

Celtic have played Champions League groups stage football since 2001/02. Since then, they have played 34 away matches.

The overall record reads:

Celtic Way:

Celtic have won 10 per cent of the available points in group stage matches.

At any level of the game this is a dreadful record and would result in straightforward relegation.

One reason to be relatively sanguine about last week’s hammering is that Celtic are as likely to lose 5, 6 or 7 goals (which has happened five times before) as they are to pick up any points (happened six times).

And let’s not get misty-eyed about one manager or another. Here are the individual records:

Celtic Way:

Since the very beginning under Martin O’Neill and his storied and vastly experienced side, Celtic’s away record has been abysmal. 

Gordon Strachan took the club to two Champions League Last 16’s and lost every away group match.

The glimmer of light is that Brendan Rodgers has the best record of any Celtic manager in European away matches. He has avoided defeat in three games, half the total number Celtic have managed since 2001/02.

Yes, there have been hammerings, but that is an increasing feature of the group stages as disparities in financial capability continue to grow between leagues in Europe.

In short, the Atletico Madrid defeat should not have been a surprise, but are Celtic learning from their experiences?

Learning Curves

In each campaign players only get six matches at this level to learn and adapt. Given some may be injured or suspended for part of a campaign as Cameron Carter-Vickers was last season, the experiences to learn can be fleeting indeed.

READ MORE: Imperious then inferior - The Jekyll and Hyde nature of Celtic

Add in that we have seen gaps of four, three and five years between campaigns, and collective memory is hard to form given the nebulous nature of football squads.

But to come back to Sunday League list of don’ts. Let’s look at the instances where those became “Doh, they done did it!”:

Celtic Way:

In 38 per cent of matches Celtic give up an early goal – easily the most regular of the occurrences to avoid. And one of the costliest. You are already facing a tough match and to concede within 10 minutes makes that so much harder and keeps the home crowd highly active.

The next highest is late goals. This likely speaks to the difference between this level and SPFL where Celtic are used to dominating and scoring late themselves against tiring opposition. Boot on other foot here.

Red cards in Champions League groups stage football are rare and a recent thing. The three occurrences surprisingly in the last two games.

Across 34 matches there are 43 instances of Celtic doing the thing we asked them not to do.

Celtic have avoided one of these pitfalls in 11 matches.

Three of them saw rare away points with a draw in Barcelona (2003-04), a win in Anderlecht (2017-18) and a draw against Shakhtar Donetsk (2022-23).

In the other eight ties, two were heroic narrow losses (0-1 in Milan 2007-08 when Celtic qualified anyway, 0-1 vs Villareal in 2008-09). Two were abject displays where miserable defeat came against inferior opposition (0-1 vs Anderlecht in 2003-04 and 0-1 vs Ajax in 2013-14). 

The other four were hammerings from much better sides where no bad luck was necessary (0-3 vs Shakhtar Donetsk in 2004-05; 0-3 vs Manchester United in 2008-09, 0-3 vs Bayern Munich in 2017-18 and 1-3 vs RB Leipzig in 2022-23).

The late goals always seem to be decisive too.

Of the nine instances of last ten-minute goals conceded, eight were match winners. They were all painful but perhaps none more than Jordi Alba’s 94th minute strike for Barcelona in 2012-13. 


Celtic's defeat in Madrid was not an anomaly. Indeed, it is as likely as a Hoops point.

The Parkhead side continue to fall into the same traps covering over 20 years of trying. There does not appear to be a development of collective memory to instil the necessary resilience to overcome those.

No manager is immune and indeed Rodgers has the best record away from home of any who have experienced this level of away football.

It is worth leaving on that positive.