Ange Postecoglou believes his side are building Champions League experience with every game but that they will also learn that the challenges will not get any easier as a result.
The Scottish champions face RB Leipzig at Celtic Park on Tuesday night in their fourth group stage game, having been beaten by the German side last week after drawing Shakhtar Donetsk and losing to Real Madrid earlier in the competition.
Celtic manager Postecoglou has previously stressed that his side are still learning how to play at the elite level, with the majority of his squad have little or no Champions League experience.
As that experience builds, he expects the players to understand that the level of opposition doesn’t drop and that standards are always high.
“That’s kind of what you hope for, that as we have more experiences at this level, that we become more accustomed to this level and what it means, and the fine lines between success and not having success,” he said.
“But at the same time, it doesn’t mean the challenge is any easier, because Leipzig are probably a better team today than they were in the first round.
“The one thing you know about this level, and that is what you need to get accustomed to, is that it is relentless. It is the highest level of club football so there are no easy games.
“You can play 100 games at Champions League level and you know the next one is still going to be difficult. That’s the experience that you come through, that you go into every game understanding that.
“Maybe when you begin, you think it maybe gets easier. It doesn’t. It stays exactly the same. It’s why even some of the greatest sides haven’t won it yet, because it’s constantly demanding at this level.”
The Parkhead club are back in the top competition after a few years’ absence, and their winless run at home in the competition now stretches back eight matches to a defeat of Ajax in 2013. Postecoglou believes that underlines the size of the challenge each game presents.
“I haven’t been responsible for all nine years, you have got to cut me a bit of slack,” he said. “But it just goes to show how hard it is.
“I don’t see it as failure. We have had some fantastic football teams at this club that haven’t been able to win at this level, but we are not alone in that. Wins are hard to attain.
“As a football club, it’s where we want to be, and that’s what our ambitions are, to consistently be at this level.
“If you are consistently at this level and playing well, you give yourself a chance to win games of football.
“But they don’t get any easier as you go along. It’s a big challenge for us.
“What a win would do is give us more belief that we can continue on this road and become a really well-credentialled Champions League football club.”
After just taking one point so far, Celtic’s chances of progress in the competition depend on positive results and back-to-back games against Leipzig and Shakhtar present an opportunity. Postecoglou was cautious about being too confident his side could step up and turn encouraging signs into winning performances, but said that a “positive mindset” was essential.
“It’s still a process,” he said. “I know people want to go through these steps really quickly.
“I know the biggest take on us I hear is that we are creating a lot of chances and haven’t taken them, is it just a matter of taking those chances?
“Yes it is but that doesn’t happen one day to the next, and it’s the same with playing games at this level, it doesn’t happen one day to the next.
“You need to grow, you need to develop, you need to have a real positive mindset in the way you go about things and give yourself opportunities for success.
“The more you are in that window of opportunity, the more likely over time you will get that success.
“If it was easily fixable you would see a lot more teams winning the Champions League, but you don’t.
“There’s a reason a select few do and the reason a select few get through to the later stages. But you have got to aspire to get there and I think this is the best way forward for us.”
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