If there was a sense of self re-emerging as Celtic swatted away any ambitions Hibs had of putting a spoke in their wheel on Sunday afternoon, its appearance was timely.

Any exit from the Champions League qualification process tends to leave its imprint like a sour hangover. The defeat to Fernencvaros last month ensured there would be no participation this term in Europe’s most prestigious tournament but the consolation of the Europa League has still to be negotiated.

The Parkhead side are on the road again this week as they take on Sarajevo in the play-off round of the competition and former Celt Stiliyan Petrov knows full well just how vital any form of European participation is to the club.

“I don’t care what is going on with Celtic in a domestic sense, you can never take your eyes off of European football,” said the former midfielder. “It is in the DNA of the club.

“You are not in the door at Celtic for two minutes and you know about the Lisbon Lions and what they achieved.

“At Celtic you have to win everything – if you were playing Barcelona and Real Madrid at Celtic Park, you would still be expected to go out and try to win the game.

“I loved that pressure as a player. I loved the demands on you because I think it brings out the best.”

Petrov should know.

Part of the Martin O’Neill chapter at the club when Celtic played in the group stages of the Champions League for the first time in their history and then part of the team for the 2003 UEFA Cup final in Seville against Jose Mourinho’s Porto, Petrov had a pivotal role in the Irishman’s midfield.

Current majority shareholder Dermot Desmond recently offered an opinion that the current team would beat that 2003 side which raised a few eyebrows.

Too diplomatic to disagree, Petrov would only suggest that bridging different eras can never be more than a hypothetical.

“I never like to compare teams,” he said. “It is a different environment, a different time. People love to do it and it is always a talking point but it isn’t much more than that.”

What he did, suggest, however, is that Celtic then and Celtic now benefit from having a strong Rangers breathing down their neck.

If there was something of Petrov’s time in the air at the weekend – Rangers winning comfortably at Fir Park as Celtic were preparing to head into the game against Hibs – the Bulgarian believes it is to everyone’s benefit.

“We played in such a competitive environment,” he said. “Domestically we were strong and we were powerful but we had to be. What will always be a constant at Celtic is a need to strive for success.

“This season is huge because there is the fact that the club are going for an historic tenth successive title and that brings with it another level of pressure. But the fact is that there is pressure every season at Celtic.

“There will be pressure too at Rangers because they know they have to stop the ten. But for me, that is a good thing.

“We always knew that if we slipped up Rangers could be there to take advantage of it and you never wanted to give them any encouragement in the race for the title. We done that while also trying to make a name for ourselves in European football but what helped us as a team was having to be at our best every week domestically.

“It definitely was to our advantage at Celtic to have a strong Rangers at our back because it kept us on our toes. It drives you forward as a team because you can’t afford to have any complacency and when you head into Europe where you need that edge and that sharpness – mental and physical – we had it.

“If Rangers are pushing Celtic, it will only help them.”

Meanwhile, Petrov has also offered a defence of Neil Lennon, his former team-mate. Social media criticism and barbs should never be taken as an adequate barometer of a generic mood, but it was difficult not to get the sense in recent weeks that the some of the flak directed towards Lennon was over-the-top and indicative of a support who have become increasingly spoiled after a diet of non-stop domestic success.

The received wisdom on certain platforms as formations, tactics and personnel choices were dissected painted a crude and disingenuous picture of a backwards looking manager mired in an old-school philosophy.

It overlooked the fact that since Lennon stepped into the breach vacated by Brendan Rodgers that Celtic have lost just once in 9 away European games, a game in which qualification from last season’s Europa League group had already been achieved – and with a Scottish points record too.

“I know Neil,” said Petrov.  “I know what kind of player he was and I know what kind of manager he is. He is a leader. And he knows what winning means. He had that desire as a player and he has that desire as a manager but he also knows what it means to manage Celtic. He has had incredible success as a player and as a manager and he knows more than anyone what this season is all about.

“He is also hungry for success, in all its forms. He will want to be the manager who leads Celtic to the ten titles but he will also want to make an impact this season in Europe too. No-one needs to tell him what that means to Celtic.”