CELTIC’S last truly great run in the European Cup was back in 1980 when those minnows Real Madrid won what was something of a classic quarter-final.

A 2-0 win at Parkhead gave Billy McNeill’s men great hope of reaching the semis, only for the pesky Spanish giants to triumph 3-0 in the second leg. Ah, well.

These two games took place in March and the next time Celtic found themselves still in European competition after Christmas was, wait for it, in 2003 when Martin O’Neil’s side were on the road to Seville.

There were some decent Celtic teams between these two campaigns which failed to get past what was the third round of any of the-then three UEFA competitions. And while Celtic have played in European football in the New Year a few times since Seville, their overall record proves how difficult it is to qualify out of any group.

This, however, is where Brendan Rodgers wants Celtic to be.

His grand plan is for the club to become an established European side, which means being competitive enough to be either in the Champions League last 16 or, and this is the aim for this season, being one of the clubs in the Europa League knock-out stages.

“Listen, we hadn’t been in Europe (Champions League) for a few years so last season was a great experience,” said Rodgers during a wide-ranging interview on talkSPORT.

“I hear Pep Guardiola talk about Manchester City being very young in Europe and you think of the level of players they have, so for the likes of ourselves to come into the Champions League is obviously huge ask for us.

“Our job over the next few years is to ensure we are in the Champions League and to be in European football after Christmas. And, of course, we have two teams in our group who are two of the favourites for the competition and also Anderlecht who we think we have an opportunity with home and away.

“It’s a game we look forward to. They’ve had a bit of upheaval, they lost their manager and you never know who that will go, so we go into it with confidence. But these games at this level are always very difficult.”

Celtic probably need to take a point from their visit to Brussels if they are to finish third because, with the best will in the world, neither of these two are going to take anything from Paris St Germain and Bayern Munich.

Rodgers, when asked if third place was his goal, said: “That’s the idea for over the next few years, to try to make that sustainable, that we gain a place in European competition after Christmas.

"A lot of our boys are still developing, they are growing and if we could do that then that’s success for us. It is an achievement to qualify for the Champions League given what you have to go through pre-season.

“We have a tough group but this is why you win your titles and come through tough qualification; to play the best teams in the world. These are exciting times. We love the games and the pressure around it.”

Wednesday’s match is by some distance more important than the derby which was as one-sided as many of the other times Rodgers has faced down Rangers.

The Northern Irishman has yet to taste defeat in domestic football and while that will come one day, that day does seem to be a long way away, especially given the way Rodgers and his staff work.

"If you are at a club like Celtic, you are at one of the great, iconic clubs in the world so your standards have to be high and what we have tried to create here is this environment where you start from scratch every day,” said the manager,

“There is a demand on you to win here at Celtic but you have to win in the best way you possibly can. For me, that is how you approach your life, your diet, your nutrition, every aspect of your profession.

“When I came in here with my staff 15 months ago the guys were on a winning cycle. They had already won five titles and Ronny (Deila) had come in and done a good job and we said we want to work in a different way, change a little which will hopefully change a lot of how you can work and how you can play.

“For a club which wants to be in the Champions League regular you have to have a philosophy as a club, which is about your standards, and be as high as you possibly can. The players have been brilliant, I’ve got to say. They come in every day, they are outstanding, and they take that quality into the game.”

Rodgers’s record against Rangers is now six wins, three at Ibrox, and one draw. In the three games he has taken on Pedro Caixinha, the score is three victories with a total score being 9-1.

Of course, no Celtic manager would ever under-estimate any Rangers team and Rodgers said: “We have played them seven times now and these are the sort of games you can never be complacent in, especially when you consider the atmosphere at both grounds.

“We never go into them expecting to win. That is when you slip up.”

Rodgers was talking to Alan Brazil and, of all people, Joey Barton who to be fair did make fun of himself with regards his infamous one and only appearance against Celtic.

One player who caught the former Rangers player’s eye that day, and many more times since, is Kieran Tierney who continues to defy all expectations.

The left-back had another great game at Ibrox, he doesn’t really do bad games, and Rodgers knows what a talent he has.

“Kieran is one of these old school boys in terms of his qualities, determination and he works hard every single day,” said the Celtic manager. “He’s a really good boy, he actually doesn’t know how good he is, which is nice. He has no ego, he just comes in every day and works.

“And he is a huge Celtic fan. If he had scored at the weekend I wouldn’t know what he would have done.

“He had a shot, which went across the goal, but I wouldn’t like to see him score against Rangers if he was on a booking, that’s for sure.”