“The timing of my injury was awful because I basically missed a full Champions League campaign,” said the 24-year-old, who coped with the examination surprisingly well since he is some way short of full fitness. “I got injured three days before the first Champions League game against Real Madrid in the Rangers game [on September 2]. That was a really hard moment for me personally. I had just come back from an injury – I’d been injured a full pre-season – and then came back and played three games, scored two goals and got injured again.
“It was not a good time for me but these are the things you have to accept in football. There is nothing we can do about it. I have been working really hard in the gym to get back as soon as possible. And I am happy that I at least got to play one game. Even if it didn’t end so good. I’ve been working so hard for this moment against Real. We are really disappointed with the result, I think we could at least have made it a little bit closer. It is what it is.”
So is Starfelt’s full rehabilitation. For that he is looking beyond the three games Celtic have in the next week or so ahead of the domestic shutdown for the World Cup in Qatar. “I feel pretty good [but] physically I’m not 100 per cent. I felt that in the Bernabeu. After the World Cup break you will see me playing my best football and feeling 100 per cent. I’ve been working hard to get back to playing games for two months and I am happy to be back on the field. My body felt better than I thought, so that is a positive.
“We tried to play our football and we did it in large parts but we were punished extremely by a very good team with quality players. We didn’t really take our chances either, which has been a little bit characteristic of our Champions League games this year. We have learned a lot from it and it’s really important to get experience of the Champions League. We need to play in these games because we don’t get that exposure so often when we face Scottish teams. It’s very good for us to get these games and we hope we will win the league now and play again next season.
“You can see that what we are doing works in some areas. We need to be more ruthless in front of goal, and also in defending our own goal. The football is there, but the last parts are not quite there yet.”