Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou has urged his players to make sure their Champions League lessons do not go to waste.
The Scottish champions were consigned to bottom spot in Group F when they were held to a 1-1 draw by Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday night.
Postecoglou has been happy with the way his players have approached the tournament and brought their attacking brand of football and feels the experience will stand them in good stead for future attempts.
But he knows they cannot make major progress if they experience another five-year wait to make the group stages.
Celtic will qualify automatically if they retain the cinch Premiership title and that is the main focus now for Postecoglou.
“It’s up to us to make sure we are in it again next year,” he said. “That’s part of the process. You can’t go into this competition every five years and expect to make an impact.
“The first challenge for us is to become a Champions League football club. That means qualifying every year.
“With what we have gone through this year and the way we have tested ourselves, there is no doubt that, should we qualify again, this group of players will be much better for the experience.
“They will understand exactly from the first game what’s required and the levels needed, and understanding the fine line between winning and not winning.
“I definitely think this year will help us but the challenge is qualifying again next year, qualifying the year after – consistently be at this level and expose your players to this level of football.
“This is a group that is very, very inexperienced at this level. Look back to where most of them were playing 12 months ago. It’s not as if we have got experience from other clubs. This is their first time.
“It would be a missed opportunity if we don’t qualify next year and use what we have gained this year to become a better football club at this level.”
Celtic have had periods of dominance and missed excellent chances in all five matches and Postecoglou feels there have been no major surprises in what they have experienced.
“We knew exactly what we were encountering and our approach was to test ourselves,” he said. “And I think we have done that.
“When the opportunities are there, you have to take them, and you have to minimise the opportunities the opposition have. We have fallen short in those areas and that’s why we didn’t end up getting more out of this group.
“Every game I thought we were in it and every game we had opportunities to make an impact.
“So from our perspective we are disappointed. It’s not like we are sitting in the dressing room satisfied. The boys are gutted they didn’t win.
“That shows the ambitions we have as a football club. We don’t want to survive at this level, we want to make an impact.”
Celtic have one last chance to do that in this year’s tournament when they take on Real Madrid in Spain next Wednesday.
The holders are only a point ahead of RB Leipzig and could need to beat Celtic to ensure top spot and a more favourable draw in the last 16.
Postecoglou said: “It’s another chance to go out there and test ourselves against a very good side and that’s what we’ll do. We will take the same approach.”
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