SCOTT SINCLAIR insists Celtic‘s European focus is firmly set on reaching the last 16 of the Champions League and not parachuting into the Europa League.
After two games the Scottish champions are sitting with three points garnered from their morale-boosting 3-0 victory away to Anderlecht.
In truth their wasn’t much boosting needed. For all Celtic were demolished 5-0 at home by Paris St Germain on Match Day One – their heaviest ever home defeat in Europe – that result was put into context when PSG then trounced Bayern 3-0 who on the opening night thrashed Anderlecht by the same scoreline.
The German giants are next up for Celtic a week today in what ordinarily would be a proposition to worry the most experienced European campaigners. But fresh from already equalling their points tally from last campaign, Celtic winger Sinclair has no fear over the trip to the Allianz or attaining the dream of potentially finishing above the team now under the stewardship Jupp Heynckes come December.
“We have confidence and no matter who we play we’ll give 100% and try to get the result,” said the Englishman. “If we play like we did the other night we can give Bayern a tough game.
“With our quality we have to go with the aim of getting through the group. We give that a go and if we fall short then we go into the Europa. The main focus is still the Champions League – we’ll try and progress and see where it takes us. We’ve gone through the qualifiers and worked hard to get where we’re going and we have to stick together and make sure we do as well as we can.
“I heard the gaffer say as much – we lost five and Bayern lost three. But that’s gone now and we just have to look forward to Bayern.”
As much as the buoyancy from a peerless domestic run would have softened the blow inflicted by PSG last month, the significance of the win against the Belgian champions two weeks later is not without great significance.
Not only was it Celtic’s first away win in the group stage since 2012, but the manner in which they dictated play throughout the game with large swathes of possession demonstrated a Scottish team going away in the Champions League doesn’t have to be all about defending. It’s a notion Brendan Rodgers has underlined to his players and has encouraged them not to feel embarrassed by trying to hold on to the ball when faced by tougher opposition.
“It was massive result and for us now it’s about re-building and going forward,” said Sinclair. “It does matter how many goals we score and by getting three goals away that will help us. I think it’s the magnitude of the game – it’s such a big stage.
“Players maybe do it differently than how they would do it at the weekend. If we gain experience we can only improve.”
The latest international break has brought about the question once more surrounding Sinclair and the fact he’ll have spent the majority of the last week at home while others go and fly their respective flags.
Recognition from the England manager Gareth Southgate is clearly a motivation for a player who has revitalised himself in Scotland. But, unlike others who have gone before him, he is content that could come while he is still plying his trade in the Ladbrokes Premiership, and, more importantly, the Champions League.
“I’d say it’s the only platform to impress,” he said. “I’m sure loads of players in the Premier League look and compare themselves to those in squad. All I can do is look forward and do what I’m doing. I would have known before – people who are in get the call and I wasn’t expecting to see my name. But I haven’t given up on it yet.
“All I can do is as well as I can in the Champions league for Celtic.”