Thursday’s game against Leverkusen was always going to be tough for Celtic.

It was certainly a difficult group to be drawn in, having to compete against both top-class Spanish and German teams. A win was required against the group leaders away from home, so it was probably always doubtful that Celtic could qualify for the Europa League play-offs.

Ange Postecoglou has certainly got Celtic playing a positive and refreshing style of football but there’s no question that despite the attacking strength of the strategy applied, there is certainly a defensive vulnerability about the system employed. I think that they’ll get away with it most weeks in the domestic game, but there’s no question that competing against a higher level of opposition will make it extremely susceptible. It’s nevertheless entertaining to watch as you know that you’re going to be seeing exciting football with a strong possibility of quality goals being scored.

Against Leverkusen, Celtic played some excellent attacking football and with a marvellous recovery from being a goal down to having a 2-1 lead with less than 10 minutes to go, it would appear to be just a case of defending properly to retain that lead. However, having watched the full match up to that point, I never felt at ease at any point with Celtic’s defensive capability and I was not totally surprised when Leverkusen got their two goals.

It’s maybe a learning process for Postecoglou and, as time goes by, he’ll adapt a tactical approach that allows Celtic to play their progressive style on most occasions but make the necessary defensive alterations when they come up against higher quality opponents. Celtic are still in Europe with the Conference League being the next challenge, so this could allow the manager and players to build their European experience for next season. It has to be remembered that a league win would put Celtic straight into next season’s Champions League group stage.

The appointment this week of Giovanni van Bronckhorst was obviously extremely important for Rangers after their poor performance and disappointing result against Hibernian in the League Cup semi-final. To get him in quickly was crucial to guarantee that the players were going to offer much more substantial performances than they’ve been offering of late. Alfredo Morelos was the best example of this as he looked again like the player who was attracting a lot of attention in past seasons.

The improved attitude and work rate of the players was there to be seen on the night and there’s no question that this was a reaction to the new manager being in charge and the new tactical approach introduced.

This worked very well as the performance was easily one of the best for quite some time. As I said a few weeks ago, this was the crucial match for Rangers as it was to be expected that a victory would secure the play-off place as Lyon were always going to get the full points in Denmark. It wasn’t the easiest of games but for a change Rangers didn’t need to come from behind. They were under a fair bit of pressure late in the game and certainly had to be thankful to Allan McGregor for producing a couple of great saves. In fairness, though, Joe Aribo could have had a hat-trick with the chances he had.

I’m sure Van Bronckhorst will make personnel and system changes going forward and this might actually be an improvement from where things were under Steven Gerrard. The players will know that their performances are now going to be judged freshly by the new boss and this generally immediately lifts their efforts and standards. He has made tactical changes already and I’m sure he will be judging the current group going forward with a view to addressing matters when the January windows opens for signings new players. Getting into the Europa League play-offs is very positive for Rangers and they have to be happy that the new manager has had a positive start and they must be delighted to remain in European football after Christmas.

I’m always fascinated by leagues that are very tight, either at the top or bottom. I’ve made reference to it a few times already and mentioned in particular how close things were in both the top divisions in Scotland and England.

The most recent case that highlights this is the engaging competition to avoid relegation from the Championship in Scotland. To be at the end of November and have half the league teams, Dunfermline, Ayr United, Hamilton Accies, Morton and Queen of the South separated by one point, illustrates what a real battle is emanating. There’s a long way to go and while I think Dunfermline will definitely stay up, there’s certainly no way that anyone can predict yet who will finally finish bottom.