Celtic could be handed lifeline after Midtjylland fielded suspended player

Celtic could be handed a European lifeline after it emerged Midtjylland fielded a suspended player during the second leg of their Champions League qualifier.

Midtjylland defeated Celtic 2-1 in their second-leg encounter after a 1-1 draw at Celtic Park. Picture: SNS
Midtjylland defeated Celtic 2-1 in their second-leg encounter after a 1-1 draw at Celtic Park. Picture: SNS

Defender Juninho was forced out of Tuesday night’s 3-0 loss to PSV prior to the match after Fifa ruled the eight-match suspension he picked up in Brazil was still valid following his summer transfer to the Danish side.

The 26-year-old received the ban over his part in a brawl between Bahia and Ceará which saw six players punished with a total of 54 matches.

He served two of those in Brazil before his move to Midtjylland, whom they signed from parent club Palmeiras. He then featured at centre-back in the 2-1 second-leg victory over Celtic last week as Awer Mabil cancelled out Callum McGregor’s excellent opener before Raphael Onyedika won the tie in extra-time. Juninho also squared off against Viborg in the Danish top flight.

Midtjylland have confirmed they were told to sit the player prior to their trip to Rotterdam on Tuesday evening and are appealing the player’s suspension.

They wrote on their website: “The Brazilian Football Federation handed out several quarantines in the spring after a disciplinary case in a match in Brazil, including to Juninho, who was awarded eight matches in the stands. In connection with the switch to FC Midtjylland, Fifa has had to assess whether the quarantine was exclusively valid nationally or world-wide.

“Fifa's Disciplinary Committee met yesterday afternoon, where it was decided to confirm the Brazilian Football Federation's quarantine of a total of eight playing days, two of which have already been served in Brazil. That information was passed on by UEFA a few hours ago, which is why Juninho has been forced out of tonight's showdown as well as the next five matches across all tournaments.

“We take note of the decision, but do not understand the timing. We are a few hours from an important match for qualification for the Champions League in the Netherlands and do not have the opportunity to take a replacement, says sports manager Svend Graversen.

“FC Midtjylland is investigating the possibility of appealing the ruling.”

Celtic have twice benefitted in the last ten years from opponents fielding ineligible players. In 2011, Sion were kicked out of the Europa League for fielding five signings made during a transfer embargo. The Swiss side had beaten Neil Lennon’s men 3-1 on aggregate in the play-off round but saw their place in the groups taken by the Parkhead side.

Then, in 2014, Celtic advanced to the next round of Champions League qualifying after Legia Warsaw brought on an ineligible substitute late in the second half of their second-leg victory. The Polish side had comprehensively beaten Celtic and new manager Ronny Deila 6-1 on aggregate, but the 3-0 win awarded to the Parkhead side enabled them to progress on away goals.

Celtic are due to face Jablonec in the third qualifying round for this season’s Europa League on Thursday as new boss Ange Postecoglou goes in search of his first competitive win since taking charge.

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