CELTIC will face Malmo in the Champions League play-off round for a place in the much coveted group stage.
Having navigated past Stjarnan and Qarabag, Celtic are now only 180 minutes from playing once more among Europe’s elite.
The forthcoming clash with Malmo throws up an interesting subplot with Celtic manager Ronny Deila having turned down a move to the Swedish champions four months before arriving at Parkhead.
Also in Malmo’s ranks is former Celtic misfit Jo Inge Berget. The attacker was signed by Deila on a loan from Cardiff City last season but failed to make a positive impact.
If Celtic are to reach the group stage for the third time in four seasons, they’ll have to give a better showing against Malmo than either Hibs or Rangers managed in recent seasons.
The visiting Swedes upset Ally McCoist in his first European game as Rangers manager with a 1-0 win at Ibrox, which greatly helped them eliminate Celtic’s rivals from the Champions League.
Two years later, Malmo came to Easter Road winning 2-0 from the first leg and promptly hammered the home side 7-0.
Celtic will also be wary of the fact Malmo got to the play-off round of this year’s competition by beating Red Bull Salzburg, a side that won comfortably at Parkhead last season.
The first leg will take place in Sweden on Wednesday, August 19. Celtic Park will host the return leg six days later.
Meanwhile, Manchester United have been drawn against Belgian side Club Brugge in the play-off round.
Brugge, who finished second in the Belgian league last season, beat Greek side Panathinaikos 4-2 on aggregate in the third qualifying round but it will be seen as a decent draw for Louis van Gaal’s side, who could have been pitted against Lazio, Monaco or CSKA Moscow.
United have never played Club Brugge but they have a history of meeting Belgian opposition in Europe, including a record 10-0 victory over Anderlecht in the 1956-57 European Cup.
Uefa Club Ranking: 122nd.
Manager: Age Hareide. The 61-year-old Norwegian took the Malmo job in January 2014 after Ronny Deila turned it down. Led Malmo to Swedish title at the first attempt and was named Sweden’s Manager of the Year.
Captain: Markus Rosenborg. The 32-year-old former Ajax, Werder Bremen and West Bromwich Albion striker scored 15 goals in 28 games as Malmo won the Swedish title last year.
Key man: Magnus Wolff Eikrem. After flopping at Cardiff City last year, the 24-year-old Norwegian midfielder is thriving at Malmo where he has scored nine goals in 22 appearances this season.
Stadium: Swedbank Stadium (Capacity 21,000). Grass pitch.
How they got there: Defeated Zalgiris Vilnius of Lithuania 1-0 on aggregate in the second qualifying round; defeated Red Bull Salzburg of Austria 3-2 on aggregate in the third qualifying round.