Lazio 2-0 Celtic: Is ‘glaring’ lack of quality holding Brendan Rodgers’ side back?28 November 2023
Two points from six matches last season. One from five this term. What do Celtic have to do to change the narrative in the Champions League?
A stern-faced Brendan Rodgers gave a pretty definitive answer after Lazio struck twice in the final eight minutes to deny the Scottish champions what would have been a nourishing, but ultimately worthless, point in Rome.
"We need to add quality. That's the glaring thing that stands out," the Celtic manager said.
"This group has shown they can compete in some games, but what makes the difference is genuine quality. That's something we can hopefully resolve over the next couple of windows."
Lazio had it on Tuesday in the Stadio Olimpico. And Celtic didn't.
Rodgers' side, knowing they needed a win to maintain any hope of being in continental competition after Christmas, caused their hosts mild concern in the early stages of the second half.
Kyogo Furuhashi and Yang Hyun-jun had chances. Not glaring ones, but chances all the same. Those were spurned.
Within a couple of minutes, Maurizio Sarri had summoned Italy international Ciro Immobile and former Champions League winner Pedro from their seats on the bench. He'd seen enough of his own side's profligacy.
Within 25 minutes, Immobile had executed two wonderfully-ruthless finishes and Celtic were done. Genuine quality.
"If it had finished 0-0, nobody would've complained about the result," said James McFadden on Sportsound. "Likewise, when you bring on players of quality like Immobile and Pedro, and they score goals, then you're not surprised."
Rodgers did reference the need to have his "very best players available" and it's true the likes of Reo Hatate, Daizen Maeda and Liel Abada would have enhanced his team.
But some might point to the club's summer spending. Luis Palma, suspended for this game, has made an impact but would Gustaf Lagerbielke, Maik Nawrocki, Kwon Hyeok-kyu, Marco Tilio or Odin Holm have strengthened the XI?
Could they have prevented Celtic's winless run in the Champions League from stretching to 15 games? Could they have stopped Celtic conceding for the 26th consecutive game in the competition against sides from Europe's big five leagues?
"When Celtic have their best players available, 11 v 11, they can compete very well," McFadden added. "Then it starts to go down to using the squad, bringing in players as replacements. The quality is not there among them.
"Maybe now it's a time Celtic look and say: 'Yes, we want to sign young players, make projects and sell them on, but we also need to buy players who are ready to come into that team'."
That, perhaps, is just what Rodgers was alluding to in the grim aftermath.
The manager has already been moved this season to clarify comments he made about the club's summer transfer activity, and deny that he was disappointed with the business done.
But perhaps changing the recruitment strategy is now the only way Celtic can stop this run and prevent the same questions about the same issues after each of these European games.
This news item was provided by the BBC Sport - Football website - the original link is: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/67553743?at_medium=RSS&at_campaign=KARANGA