Celtic have nothing left to play for in this season's UEFA Champions League but Scottish pride will be on the line when Villarreal visit Parkhead on Wednesday. If the champions fail to beat the experienced Spanish side, it will be the first time in 53 seasons of European competition that Scottish clubs have failed to register a win.
Between them, Rangers, Queen of the South, Hibernian, Motherwell and Celtic have played 13 matches in the UEFA Cup and Champions League this season and not one of them has managed to chalk up a solitary victory. Champions Celtic have been particularly embarrassed by their failure to take more than a single point from their two encounters with Danish outfit Aalborg, and their Scotland defender Gary Caldwell admits he and his team-mates have got some reputation restoration work to do.
A 2-1 defeat in Aalborg last month ensured that Celtic do not even have a shot at a consolation slot in the UEFA Cup and Caldwell and Co were stung by the criticism they received in the aftermath of that defeat. "We've had our critics since the Aalborg defeat, but I don't think we were as good as we were perceived to be when we reached the last 16 for the last two seasons," the central defender said.
"Equally, I don't believe we're as bad as some have made out after our elimination this season. Previously, we got the breaks you need to make the knockout stage but just didn't have that kind of luck this season. The knives were well and truly put in after we lost in Denmark."
Despite crashing out of Europe, Caldwell insisted Celtic will give their all to beat the Spanish side and boost Scotland's ranking, or co-efficient, within UEFA, which has repercussions for how many places Scottish teams receive in European competition in future seasons.
"Villarreal will want a win to top the group," Caldwell said. "But we also have a responsibility to the club and fans and need to get some points for the co-efficient. And we want to use this to gain more experience and prepare for, hopefully, another chance in the Champions League next season."
Celtic's top scorer, Georgios Samaras, and last season's player of the year Aiden McGeady are likely to start the match at Parkhead after being used as substitutes in Sunday's 2-0 defeat by Hibernian. Villarreal arrive at Parkhead level on nine points with Group E leaders Manchester United. They must win the match and hope holders United drop points at home to Aalborg in order to top the group.