Champions League: Celtic and Motherwell set to discover European fate
Celtic and Motherwell will learn their potential opponents for the third qualifying round of the Champions League today.
The Clydesdale Bank Premier League champions have been seeded for the draw and Neil Lennon’s men know they will face one of ten teams – with the second-round fixtures still to be concluded.
With Motherwell being unseeded they will face a stern test from one of Dynamo Kiev, Fenerbache, FC Copenhagen or Panathinaikos. Celtic’s draw looks decidedly easier in the domestic champions section.
They could face Ulisses, FC Sheriff, Molde, Ventspils, HJK Helsinki, KR, AEL Limassol, Linfield, Neftci PFK or FC Zestafoni.
With Celtic’s Old Firm rivals Rangers being entered into the Third Division, many feel a run in the Champions League is required to give the Celtic Park faithful big fixtures this season.
Former skipper Tom Boyd believes the group stages are a minimum requirement for Celtic. “We’ve got qualifiers coming up in a few weeks’ time and we have to make sure we qualify for that and get the crowd back again because some of the best nights we’ve had here at Celtic Park have been on Champions League nights – even better than some of the Old Firm games,” he said.
Celtic have a mixed record in European qualification, but Boyd fancies them to progress. “They have a good chance,” he said. “I think what has helped them is being seeded. With the quality of the squad, if they play to the potential they had last season, they’d be good enough to qualify.”
With the first leg of the qualifiers coming ahead of the new season, Boyd also feels it can be a disadvantage to face a team from a league whose season is already well underway.
“The big problem obviously is that it happens before the start of the season and, if you look back over the years, it has been a problem for most Scottish teams, so we hope we can get a team that are in the same position and not have that little head-start and fitness and game awareness,” he said.
Celtic face Ajax in a pre-season friendly tomorrow, with matches against Inter Milan and Real Madrid also lined up. Assistant manager Johan Mjallby believes their fixture against the Dutch giants will be good preparation for whoever their Champions League opposition proves to be.
He said: “They are a quality side and it is games like this one against Ajax that we need to play to see where we are really before we venture into European football and try to qualify for the Champions League.”
Motherwell reached this stage due to the liquidation of the oldco Rangers and will be huge underdogs no matter which team they are drawn against.
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