The Celtic midfielder looks at Hapoel Tel Aviv atop the section, con­siders the results which got them there, and concedes he does not know how to quantify the Israeli side who are now one point away from booking their place in the knockout stages of the competition.

Hapoel will look to get that point from a draw, or even another win to add to the emphatic 3-0 victory they posted in Vienna on Thursday, when they travel to Celtic Park on December 2.

Having already defeated Tony Mowbray’s men 2-1 in Tel Aviv, where they also posted a 5-1 destruction of Rapid Vienna, there will be no shortage of confidence packed into their luggage.

Figuring out how to stop the Hapoel bandwagon is already filling their thoughts of the Celtic players, though Robson, who missed the first game through injury, acknowledges they are as dangerous as they are intriguing.

He said: “I don’t know what it is about them because I didn’t play in Tel Aviv. I’ve just been looking at them from the outside. But I feel we could have won there. They have been the surprise package, and it’s not easy going to play in Israel, as the boys found out.”

What was thought at the time to be a freak result has instead proved to be a portent of bigger surprises. Now, Celtic are forced to look up at Hapoel, Hamburg and Rapid Vienna from bottom spot in a table which Robson acknowledges has a strange look.

He believes it should all have been different, explaining: “From the two Hamburg games, we could easily have come away with six points, and I think we should have come away with six points. That’s the frustrating part.”

At least Celtic managed to rid themselves of their shot-shy tag against Hamburg with a shoot-on-sight approach to playing in the Nordbank Arena.

Ultimately, however, that served only to intensify the feeling they did not get what they deserved from a night of huge endeavour. “People tend to forget it is Hamburg you are playing,” said Robson. “Yet we’ve gone there and dominated the first half and created some great chances. On another night we could have come away two or three-nil winners.”

Had Scott McDonald managed to beat Frank Rost when one-on-one with the keeper on a couple of occasions, the platform would have been provided for a Celtic win.

Robson admitted he thought the striker was going to score, but retains full confidence in the little Australian. “What is that, 58 goals or something in two years?” he asked rhetorically. “The wee man is just banging goals in for fun, so I’ve no problem with him. He will bang them in again.”

Georgios Samaras also had a gilt-edged opportunity when put through in the second half. Again, there is no hint of recrimination as Robson said: “I thought he was outstanding. He had a great game. We are just disappointed we couldn’t have got the win.”

As a result of which, has the ship to the knockout stages sailed without Celtic?

“No,” is the emphatic response from Robson, before adding: “We need to go out and make sure we win our next two games [against Hapoel and Rapid] and take it from there. It would be frustrating if we are not in Europe after Christmas.”

Samaras echoes this determination and sense of frustration. The Greek striker accepts two points from four games is the only stat that matters. “We’re aiming to take six points from our two remaining games, starting against Hapoel,” said Samaras. “That would put us on eight, and I don’t know if that will be enough to take us through to the next round. But we’ve got to give ourselves a chance.”

The regret remains the points dropped in the early games, though Samaras is philosophical about how painful the consequences may prove to be.

“We will see,” he said. “Anything can happen in football, but we will fight to the very end to see what our chances are. They are not easy games, but we have taken a lot from playing so well against Hamburg.

“It’s a good thing that we are disappointed about only taking one point from a side who are doing well in the Bundesliga.

“The most important thing is to build on that performance in the final two games.”