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Analysis: Celtic players must look themselves in the mirror

Celtic's exit from the Champions League comes at a huge cost on and off the pitch.

Out: Celtic lost 4-3 to Cluj.
Out: Celtic lost 4-3 to Cluj. SNS

One year on, almost to the day, there is a sense of deja vu about Celtic's Champions League qualification exit.

While last year it was away in Athens that Celtic fell in the third qualifying round, this time around it was at home, in front of the Parkhead faithful, in a game that was tilted in Neil Lennon's favour after the opening leg.

The similarities don't end with the point of exit. Brendan Rodgers was left ruing defensive errors and lapses in concentration in Greece. Neil Lennon clearly faced much the same.

Fans in the past may have looked to the board for such a devastating exit - not this time.

The Celtic squad must look squarely at themselves.

Yes, Lennon chose to play Callum McGregor at left-back - a decision Celtic fans are trying to comprehend - but even then that squad should have more than enough to beat a side like Cluj.

While progression to the next stage would have provided its challenges, namely the opposition Slavia Prague, it would have given Celtic a £30m tie - and as last night shows, anything can happen in football.

But to get the chance to go toe-to-toe with the European heavyweights you have to prove you deserve to be there - Celtic did the opposite with the display against Cluj.

Instead, they now face a Europa League play-off against either AIK from Sweden of Sherriff of Moldova.

The warchest which could have been opened with the Champions League prize money will be stored away for another season.

Lennon admitted post-match that he'll likely have to adjust his transfer targets due to the absence of the Euro windfall.

And make no bones about it - the next tie is not a walk in the park. AIK and FC Sherrif will both cause Celtic problems.

Yes, Celtic will be favourites to go through with a better budget and playing squad, but that was the same for Cluj and we know how that turned out.

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