THE top priority for Callum McGregor and his Celtic team mates next season is clear – retain the Premiership trophy and become the first side in Scottish football history to win 10 consecutive titles.

The sense of excitement is already, just weeks after the SPFL board awarded them their ninth straight league crown, growing among both the players and the supporters.

Yet, McGregor, who has been so integral to the incredible run the Parkhead club have been on, will have another major objective as well once the 2020/21 campaign finally gets underway.

Many good footballers remember the defeats and disappointments they have suffered more than they recall the triumphs and successes.

The midfielder has certainly not been able to forget the calamitous loss to Cluj in the Champions League third qualifying round and is determined to make amends and reach the lucrative group stages next time around.

Neil Lennon’s men appeared to be in a strong position to progress after drawing 1-1 with Dan Petrescu’s charges in Romania last August. But Celtic crashed to a 4-3 loss at home to miss out on Europe’s premier club competition for the second season running.

They went on to do rather well in the Europa League – they beat Lazio home and away, topped their section for the first time ever and reached the last 32 – following their ignominious exit.

However, the memory of that reverse still rankles McGregor, who was selected out of position at left back, and he is keen to do well in the Champions League next time around.

"We do want to right the wrongs of what happened against Cluj last season,” he said. "It was a crazy game of football really. There were so many ups and downs over the 90 minutes.

"At one point in the game we looked like scoring every time we went up the pitch. But then in the last 20 minutes, Cluj pretty much did that and we were out. It was a crazy night and sometimes in football these things happen.

"As players you remember low points like that and you want to rectify them when you get the chance. The aim is to get the club back into the Champions League as that's where we feel we should be. With the stature of Celtic, we feel that's the tournament we should be competing in.

"We all know how difficult it is to get there with the four qualifying rounds and in knockout football anything can happen. But we feel we are a good enough club, with good enough players, to be there.

"When you qualify and get the rewards of a Barcelona, Bayern Munich or Man City coming to Celtic Park, it's a great feeling. We all want to be playing in the Champions League and hopefully we can get the club back there."

Celtic have their work cut out competing against the continent’s elite these days due to their superior spending power.

But McGregor is, after their showings in the Europa League last term, confident they can give a good account of themselves and believes, too, they have learned invaluable lessons from their Cluj and Copenhagen defeats.

"The two Lazio wins were the standout results and performances,” he said. "But in terms of the entire group campaign, we were absolutely excellent. We went to France to play Rennes and they were flying at the time. We got a point and probably deserved more on the night.

"We got revenge on Cluj a little bit when they came back to Celtic Park and also beat Rennes at home. There were some really good performances in there.

"Against Copenhagen, we should have been out of sight in the first half of the first game over there. But that was another learning curve for the players - individually and collectively.

"Hopefully we can take those experiences into the new European campaign and build from it. At that level, you need to be ruthless and take your chances. We learned that this year. Hopefully we can rectify the mistakes, repeat all the positive parts of our performances and put a good run together.”

The format for the Champions League and Europa League next season is unknown at this stage due to the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus outbreak and football shutdown.

This season’s competitions have still to be completed and could be concluded in a “Final 8” tournament format at one venue in Lisbon in August.

McGregor, though, is confident that will give Celtic, whose players normally get little more than a fortnight off in the summer, longer to prepare for the new term and will be fresh when competitive action finally does resume.

"We don't know when the qualifiers will start, but it looks like we will get a decent period for pre-season this year,” he said.

"The preparation time will hopefully be better than normal because there is always a quick turnaround. You finish one season, have international games and then you are straight back into qualifiers after a couple of weeks.

"They are such massive games and it will be good to get the chance to prepare together as a team. We will all be starting at the same point this pre-season, people won't be coming back in stages because of internationals. So hopefully that puts us in a strong position to prepare physically, mentally and tactically for the qualifiers.”