Can Scotland's European trio still reach the knockout stages?

All is not lost for Scottish sides in Europe this season, but the trio of representatives face a difficult task to reach the knockout stages.

Celtic, Rangers and Hearts state of play as Scotland’s European football hopes on a knife edge SNS Group

What is that Trainspotting quote about being Scottish again?

Another round of fixtures, another chastening week thus far for our European representatives as the harsh reality of lining up against elite opposition hit home.

It is not quite time to put away the passports for another year, but fans of Celtic, Hearts and Rangers could be forgiven for fearing the worst when it comes to continuing in Europe after the winter World Cup.

So what do the trio of Scottish clubs need to do in order to ensure they have a little longer in the continental limelight this season?

Celtic

Champions League record: P:4 W:0 D:1 L:3

The Hoops were left ruing a series of missed opportunities in the defeat to RB Leipzig which ended their hopes of progressing to the last 16 of the competition.

Celtic face an uphill battle to save their European campaign. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Matt O’Riley, Greg Taylor and Kyogo Furuhashi all spurned great opportunities to give Celtic a foothold in the contest before Timo Werner put the Germans into a second half lead.

From that position, Celtic never looked like recovering and by the time Emil Forsberg added the visitors’ second, the spark had fizzled out on the hosts’ Champions League dream.

Around 1,400 miles away in Warsaw, Shakhtar Donetsk were moments away from a historic win over reigning European champions Real Madrid, only for Antonio Rudiger to pop up deep into stoppage time and do what the Spanish giants have managed throughout their continental history.

That goal keeps Celtic in with a faint glimmer of at least reaching the Europa League knockouts, but the Glasgow side will have to reach that competition via the most difficult of routes.

Shakhtar visit Parkhead in a fortnight, and only a win in that encounter will keep Celtic in Europe for another week.

After that, it becomes mathematically simple; beat 14-time winners Real in their own back yard and hope Leipzig get something against the Ukrainians in their makeshift Polish home.

Nobody said it would be easy.

Rangers

Champions League record: P:4 W:0 D:0 L:4

Rangers’ bruising 7-1 defeat to Liverpool at Ibrox, an unwanted club record, underlined how difficult Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side have found the step up to the elite level.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - OCTOBER 12: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino (centre) celebrates making it 1-1 during a UEFA Champions League match between Rangers and Liverpool at Ibrox Stadium, on October 12, 2022, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

A spirited first half performance had seen Rangers take the game to their star-studded opponents and carve out the lead, only to be pegged back almost instantly. After the break Liverpool showed their class and disappeared into the distance.

Last season’s thrilling Europa League run had fostered hopes that Rangers could continue to take forward strides in Europe but a difficult draw has meant some sobering results so far.

A 4-0 opening day defeat against Ajax meant an uphill battle from the start, and a 3-0 defeat to Napoli at Ibrox showed that the home advantage that had been so important in their previous adventure didn’t count for nearly so much in the Champions League.

Van Bronckhorst felt he had seen improvement when his side went down 2-0 to Liverpool at Anfield, conceding two set-piece goals. Any optimism he felt would have been wiped out as Jurgen Klopp’s side ran riot in the return game, scoring for fun in the second half.

Progress in the Champions League is impossible after four straight defeats and a -15 goal difference, and prospects of a return to the familiarity of the Europa League look slim.

With two games to go, against Napoli in Italy and Ajax at Ibrox, Rangers are three points behind the Dutch side. If Ajax were to lose to Liverpool in their next match, then a defeat in Glasgow by more than five goals would see Rangers move into third.

It’s more likely that Rangers will need to take something from their trip to play the Serie A leaders and beat Ajax. With no points from four games so far, four or more from the closing two matches looks like more than just a big ask.

Hearts

Europa Conference League record: P:3 W:1 D:0 L:2

The Jambos travel to Florence this evening to take on Italian football royalty on their own patch.

Hearts take on Fiorentina in Florence this evening, a week after a 3-0 home defeat to the Italian side. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

Fiorentina may be struggling somewhat in Serie A this season, but eased past the Gorgie outfit at Tynecastle seven days ago in a comfortable 3-0 win that saw the hosts finish the evening with ten men.

La Viola were battered 4-0 at home by Lazio on Monday, but history makes grim reading for the travelling capital faithful hoping their side can cause an upset. Celtic, Rangers, Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have all tried and failed to win at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in their unblemished home record against British opposition.

A similar result for Robbie Neilson’s men would leave their hopes of reaching the knockout rounds hanging by a thread and likely give them the unenviable task of beating Istanbul Basaksehir in Turkey while hoping they or RFS can get a result against Fiorentina in the final two matches.

Hearts have already beaten the Latvian outfit away from home, but might do well to take inspiration from their performance in Italy where an Andrej Ilić goal secured an unlikely point.