Celtic surrendered four goals unanswered as they dropped their second straight Europa League match against Sparta Praha by a final score of 4-1 in Prague on Thursday.
French centre-back Christopher Julien returned to the starting lineup for Celtic after injury issues kept him out since early September.
Odsonne Edouard scored the visitors’ lone goal after 15 minutes, but Sparta answered with a pair of strikes from David Hancko and Lukas Julis before halftime. The Czech side finally put the game to bed later in the second half as Julis netted his second goal of the match in the 80th minute before Srdan Plavsic made it 4-1 in stoppage time.
As they sit at the bottom of Group H with one point from four matches, Celtic will conclude the group stage of this season’s Europa League with a visit to San Siro to play AC Milan before finishing at home against Lille.
The Hoops will return to Parkhead on Sunday when they host Ross County for their Scottish League Cup second round clash.
Here are four findings from Celtic’s loss to Sparta Praha.
Woeful Defending Continues
Celtic have had major troubles in the defence all season, and that did not change against Sparta Praha. Celtic’s failure to get the ball clear allowed the first goal while the indecisiveness of Kristoffer Ajer and Scott Bain resulted in the Czechs’ second.
The Hoops also got beat on the counter with two late goals, which is somewhat understandable. In the end, Celtic’s horror defending has cost them yet again.
Players who have proven their quality in previous years past seem incompetent this season. Now with everyone back healthy, Celtic must find a consistent back four to depend upon for each game and develop some sort of chemistry.
Mixed Performance from Edouard
Edouard took his goal very well and nearly found another from a free kick in the second half, but he also missed a glorious opportunity which would have made it 2-2 after the interval.
There is no doubt that Edouard is having a poor season by his standards, but he continues to be the best centre-forward option for Celtic. He must find a way to be clinical with every opportunity which comes his way.
Barkas Back In
Scott Bain has had his chance and he has not been any better than Barkas. Neil Lennon has got to give Barkas another opportunity to prove his worth.
While Barkas may not make the spectacular saves that Forster did last season, he can at least come in and stabilise the defense, as he did a little earlier in the campaign.
People seem to think that Neil Lennon doesn’t know what’s at stake, but the thing is, if there is one manager who knows exactly that, it would be the 49-year-old.
With hopes of a good season in Europe now out the window, it is time to focus on the league, and the only man who should lead them through the 10-in-a-row bid is Lennon. There is plenty of time for things to change, but Celtic must take care of business in the Premiership before anything else.
As long as Celtic can find their form and more consistency, they could easily find their way back into the title race with Rangers. The Hoops are making life very difficult for themselves, but the outlook isn’t quite as bleak as some may suggest.