IT is something of a cliché to suggest there are no meaningless games in professional football, especially when a team is already eliminated from the competition they are playing in.

At Celtic though, and certainly under Ange Postecoglou, there is very little prospect of this Thursday’s Europa League game against Real Betis being treated as anything other than a big occasion, despite the fact they will be dropping into the UEFA Conference League no matter the outcome.

On the collective front, it is an opportunity for Postecoglou to see how his team have improved since they went toe-to-toe with the La Liga outfit in Seville, where they were unfortunate to be edged out by the odd goal in seven in an opening day thriller.

On an individual level, there will almost certainly be the opportunity for several fringe players to stake their claim for a place in the side moving forward, so try telling Postecoglou – who would dearly love to have been involved in such occasions as a player himself - that any European tie at Celtic Park is a dead rubber.

“A dead rubber?” Postecoglou shot back, “No games are ever a dead rubber.

“Every game is an opportunity to do something special, do something that is memorable. I don’t see it as a dead rubber.

“It’s not about resting guys. I need to give some game time to players, that’s for sure. As we saw with the last game, whether it’s injuries or being able to rotate, I need players who have game time under their belts.

“Thursday is a great opportunity for some of the guys who haven’t played much recently to get 90 minutes in.

“We’ve still got eight games between now and the break – including the Cup Final – so we want everyone up and running.

“I’ve got one bad knee and I’m overweight – but I’d love to play. I don’t think anyone wouldn’t want that opportunity. European nights are always special for this club.

“For me as manager, it’s great as we’ll get meaningful minutes because, as we saw at the weekend [when Betis defeated Barcelona], they are a top side.

“You need to be exposed to that kind of football to get them ready for the challenges ahead.”

One of those men who may be given another chance to shine is Mikey Johnston, who Postecoglou has challenged to step up to the plate in the absence of the injured Jota on the left side of the Celtic attack.

The Celtic manager was impressed by his showing in the weekend win over Dundee United, and he has assured him that if he maintains a similar level of work-rate, the rewards will follow.

“He was good on Sunday,” he said. “It was good for him to get 90 minutes and start working on the things we have been talking to him about.

“Again, with attacking players, they usually measure themselves with goals and assists – all the flashy stuff.

“For me, it’s the other stuff that is important, and that’s what Mikey did the other day.

“He has got talent. He’ll score goals and create assists. It’s about making sure he understands you need to invest to do that.

“He’s seen Kyogo, Jota, Liel (Abada) and James Forrest. They are all getting the rewards, but they have to put the hard work in.

“Mikey did that on Sunday.”

Another who may be rewarded for his work behind the scenes is left-back Liam Scales, the surprise scorer of Celtic’s third goal at Tannadice after coming off the bench.

“It’s great,” said Postecoglou. “For any player, they want to start off their Celtic career as positive as possible. The dream is scoring, so it’s great for him.

“He’s worked hard in training every day, waiting for his opportunity. Like with all these guys, I can’t guarantee when it will come, but if it does, they’ve got to be ready.

“Scalesy is doing everything right in training to make sure he’s ready.”

Meanwhile, Postecoglou says he was blown away by the ovation he received from the Celtic support after the win at Tannadice, where he was given a rapturous reception as he held a scarf above his head that had been thrown onto the pitch from the away end.

That being said, he isn’t certain he deserves such adoration just yet.

“I’ve said from day one, I’m not sure I’m sort of worthy of the adulation or the support I’m getting, because I’ve yet to achieve what I want to,” he said.

“But I can’t dismiss the fact they are right behind me, not just me, but the whole team.

“The atmosphere they create, even on Sunday when a few unfortunately couldn’t get in to the ground. The ones who were there made up for it with their noise.

“They are the most important part of this football club. You talk to anyone who was here last year, without the Celtic support and our fans in the stadium, there isn’t the same sort of meaning to this football club.

“It’s just about me showing my gratitude for their support.”