I DIDN’T stay up to watch the Scotland match in midweek but I still saw enough to know that for the bulk of Celtic players missing the summer trip to Peru and Mexico was the correct decision.

While Lewis Morgan earned his first cap from the bench in Lima and Jack Hendry and Scott Bain will surely get run-outs in the Azteca Stadium on Sunday, with those qualifying matches just around the corner it seems wise indeed for Kieran Tierney, James Forrest, Stuart Armstrong, Callum McGregor and Craig Gordon to prioritise rest instead.

You have to be up to speed straight away in these games and it means so much to the club to make the group stages. Not having a break might not hit you straight away but it is something which will catch up on you eventually.

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Celtic are seeded so they won’t get really heavy opposition in the qualifiers, but it is always a fraught time of the season, against opponents who can make life very difficult for you. The likes of Lincoln Red Imps and Hapoel Be’er Sheva, who have caused problems in the past, could lie in wait again. You take who you get in these games, but you have to make sure you are right for them. Probably the first two qualifying ones should be less difficult, the third and fourth games more so.

In general terms, it is hard to disagree when Brendan Rodgers says Celtic are still a long way away from being properly competitive in the Champions League. Compared with my day, when the club reached two European Cup finals in four years, there is a financial disparity there which makes competing at that level so difficult. When even teams like Manchester City and Paris St Germain with all their vast resources are struggling to make the final stages of the continent’s top club competition, that just tells you how hard it is.

But while matching the kind of Euro elite who can bring on the likes of Gareth Bale as a second half substitute is probably beyond them, that is not to say that you can’t improve. Assuming the double treble winners get back to the group stages during this campaign you don’t want to be taking the heavy drubbings the club got last year, albeit against superior teams with the kind of riches Celtic can only dream of.

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Brendan is trying to take a bit of pressure off his team by playing down their chances a bit. But there is no doubt that he will be looking to improve in the European arena, ensure that his team don’t make some of the same mistakes. But you have got to get through the qualifying rounds first. There is an extra one this year and they are never easy.

There was a good side of Celtic in Europe last season and a not-so-good side. If the away match against Anderlecht which ultimately booked their Europa League place was the good side, the Zenit St Petersburg tie contained a bit of both. They played superbly well in the first leg, earning a one-goal advantage through a late Callum McGregor strike, then during the second leg they showed some of the weaknesses that they sometimes show in Europe.

Third place last season was an improvement on fourth the year before but shooting for a last 16 spot becomes very difficult if you land a group with two giants of the game like Paris St Germain and Bayern Munich again. But you have to avoid the heavy defeats. And maybe that means you have to adapt the approach slightly, particularly away from home, should the opposition be as tough as it was last season.

It is just a case of being aware of how effective these teams can be and adapting your style slightly, particularly away from home, and making sure you are more clinical when chances come your way. The more you play in Europe, the more you get to grips with it. Competing for the title is far-fetched for a club like Celtic these days. But there is no reason why they can’t put on a better show.