The Champions League qualifiers have thrown up some interesting scenarios, but none of them will fundamentally alter our trajectory.
We’re going to be a Pot Four team and we knew we would be and we knew what that meant. Above us are twenty-four teams and almost all of them are in the elite bracket, which is what comes from the Big Five leagues getting a minimum three teams apiece.
The Champions League is massively imbalanced.
That won’t change any time soon. The gap between the mega-clubs and the rest is only growing. Those top five leagues are filled with the best players because they have the most money.
For a club like ourselves, we’re pushing a boulder up a hill.
I never wanted people to get too carried away by the Ibrox European run, because it convinces some folks that we should be aiming to do the same. It’s totally unrealistic to expect us to accomplish, in the Champions League, what they did last year.
Because the calibre of teams we are likely to have to face in that draw far exceeds anything they came up against on their run. People talk about the strength of Dortmund and Leipzig, but there’s a reason those two sides were in the second tier competition when they faced Ibrox and not the top one. They weren’t good enough for that level.
We are almost certainly going to face a Group of Death, a group where six points is an achievement and anything more is a minor miracle. The nine points we took from the Europa League last season – and for which we get no credit at all – would be a stunning performance in that bigger competition and no critic would be able to deny it.
I am a realist. You look at the quality even in Pot 3 and you see that we’re massively outgunned in almost every way. It’s part of the beauty of this tournament, of course, part of the romance of being an underdog going toe-to-toe with the big boys.
But it’s important to stay grounded.
It would be smart, in light of those momentous challenges, to temper our expectations.