The Scottish champions failed to win any of their six matches in last season’s tournament and would have heaved a sigh of relief to have avoided the monied elite this time around when, for a while during the draw, it looked as if a meeting with Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City or Barcelona could be on the cards. Celtic will still be underdogs in a pool featuring the Dutch champions, the side that finished third in Spain and last year’s Serie A runners-up but trying to qualify from the group looks distinctly more possible than would have been the case had they landed in one of the other sections.
This will be Lagerbielke’s first taste of UEFA’s elite club competition and it is an experience he is determined to relish, believing Celtic have what it takes to claim a top-two place to extend their Champions League involvement beyond Christmas. “The group looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun,” said the Swede, a recent £3million arrival from Elfsborg. “To play against those teams is going to be a challenge of course, as it always is in the Champions League, but it’s going to be a fun challenge.
“When you are a young boy you look forward to playing in the Champions League, and now we will get the chance, so it’s going to be pretty fun. In every competition we aim to go as far as possible, and even in the Champions League we of course will look to advance to the further stages. [The reason I signed] wasn’t all about this, we have the domestic competitions also of course. But the Champions League adds a bit of extra spice. So, I’ll look forward to all the games.”
You suspect every prospective new Celtic signing is shown footage of the famous 2-1 win over Barcelona from 2012 and Lagerbielke – who was just 12 at the time – was well aware of it too. “The videos I’ve seen of the European nights here are special,” he added. “The Champions League is the main thing you watch when you are growing up and I remember watching the Celtic against Barcelona game. I remember Celtic not having that much possession, but they still won anyway, and that was a nice piece of Celtic history. That is the beauty of football, no matter how big or small of a team you are, you can always win a game. We go into every game to compete, and of course, we aim to win the games we play. Hopefully we can create new memories.”
Feyenoord will forever hold a special place in Lagerbielke’s heart. It was in Rotterdam that the defender made his Elfsborg and European debut, coming on as a substitute in a 5-0 Europa Conference League thrashing. “It was a good atmosphere, my first game for Elfsborg and my first European game,” he recalled. “It was coronavirus then so they couldn’t fill the stadium. It was still a good atmosphere anyway – although we lost 5-0. I came on when it was 5-0 with 20 minutes to go – after that it stayed 0-0 so …”