Champions League: Five salvaged shoddy starts to encourage Celtic

Brendan Rodgers didn't enjoy his first serious dugout experience in charge of Celtic much
Brendan Rodgers didn't enjoy his first serious dugout experience in charge of Celtic much

Five precedents which show that Brendan Rodgers shouldn't be judged too harshly on his bad first impression...


For Rodgers at Celtic, see Pep Guardiola at Barcelona. He lost his first Champions League road trip 1-0 to Wisla Krakow, though admittedly they already led that qualifier 4-0 on aggregate!

Celtic's pre-season had gone perfectly ahead of their impending reunion with Old Firm foes Rangers: they hired a better boss than most expected in Brendan Rodgers and signed someone who the likes of Tottenham were chasing in Zinedine Zidane-approved young French striker Moussa Dembele.

However, all that positivity had vanished by the conclusion of their first competitive game as they were stunned 1-0 by Gibraltarian champions Lincoln Red Imps in the away leg of their Champions League second qualifying round double header.

That admittedly awful result shouldn't be read as a sign of a dismal season to come though. They remain favourites to progress, while these five examples offer a reminder that it really doesn't matter how you start the campaign, it's all about how you finish...

Man United 1998/99
The most famous campaign in the Red Devils' existence began with humiliation as they were mowed down 3-0 by double winners Arsenal in the Community Shield. They drew their first two Premier League games and the away leg of their Champions League qualifier too, but come May were posing with the title, the FA Cup and "ol' big ears".

Man United 2002/03
Sir Alex Ferguson is always an inspiration when it comes to looking at responses to early setback. Man United opened 2002/03 like Celtic this term, losing 1-0 in the Champions League preliminaries to a team with no continental clout, Hungary's Zalaegerszegi. They bossed the second leg 5-0 and went all the way to the quarter-finals, while reclaiming their Premier League crown from Arsenal with 83 points, which was then their second highest tally in a 38-fixture season.

Barcelona 2008/09
For Rodgers at Celtic, see Pep Guardiola at Barcelona. He lost his first Champions League road trip 1-0 to Wisla Krakow, though admittedly they already led that qualifier 4-0 on aggregate! Still, they did provide a valuable example in La Liga, kicking off with a 1-0 reverse to newcomers Numancia and being held at home by Racing Santander, only to rally with a run of 19 victories in 20. A treble would follow.

Rangers 2012/13
The idea of learning from the enemy won't sound too appealing, but both are forced to handle the same pressure of three points being demanded from almost every encounter. That has never been greater than when Rangers landed in League Two within months of being dethroned as Scottish champions. A team used to accumulating 83-plus points in the top tier should have coasted through the fourth, yet they drew the opener at Peterhead 2-2 and won just three of the initial seven, before recovering to prevail in 11 successive contests, signing off 24 points clear of their closest rivals.

Juventus 2015/16
After four straight scudetti and a Champions League final near miss, the Old Lady suddenly found herself without Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Carlos Tevez, and reacted by being beaten 1-0 at home by Udinese - 16th in 2014/15 - and triumphing in a mere three of their maiden ten Serie A assignments. It was sink-or-swim time, and they decided to glide, winning 26 of the final 28 matches.

Click here to check out more of Betting.Betfair's Champions League coverage

Get a Free £/€20 Exchange Bet

  • Join Now - Open account using promo code VAL225
  • Bet - Place a £/€20 Bet on the Exchange
  • Earn We'll Refund You £/€20 If the Bet Loses

T&Cs apply.

Discover the latest articles

Read past articles