Noel Whelan claims that Celtic have been handed a significant advantage in their Premiership title hunt ahead of Rangers after sealing a place in the Europa League knock-out stages.
Speaking exclusively to Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge, the former Aberdeen and Livingston striker says that the Hoops’ achievement of qualifying with two games to spare in the group stage gives Neil Lennon’s men the upper hand domestically.
Both Celtic and Rangers managed to secure impressive victories on Thursday night, the Bhoys beating Lazio in Rome and the Light Blues defeating Portuguese giants Porto at Ibrox.
With Steven Gerrard and his men still in a fight to reach the round of 32 next year, Whelan says that Thursday’s win for their Glasgow rivals gives them the edge in battling for the title.
Whelan told Football Insider: “When you look at the Premiership and how close it is, separated by one goal on goal difference, it gives them that breathing space. They don’t need to go and qualify, they’ve already done it, now they can concentrate on the league.
“On the other hand Steven Gerrard – three points ahead of Feyenoord, having to go over there in the next game – still has a lot of work to do and that can put the pressure on the player because games are important and that can take a lot out of you as a football player, that concentration level.
“Knowing you need to go to the next team below you, if you can get a point, fantastic, but you’ve got to say in Premiership terms and in title predicament, it’s fallen better for Celtic – they’ve done their job already, they’re there already, they can now concentrate on the Premiership games whereas Rangers have one eye on European qualification and on the Premiership.
Celtic lead their Europa League group by one point ahead of Cluj, with a clash against the Romanian side following a home tie against Rennes.
Rangers meanwhile are level on points with first-placed side Young Boys and just four points ahead of both Feyenoord and Porto, meaning any four of the clubs could qualify.