Europe awaits for Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen and Kilmarnock

Tom Hateley now plays in Poland. Picture: Getty.
Tom Hateley now plays in Poland. Picture: Getty.
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Scottish clubs now enter European football so early, the draws for their opening rounds can feel like they belong to the season just gone past more than the one to come. Yet what happens in any assignments they are handed on Tuesday in Nyon, Switzerland are capable of reverberating through the next 11 months.

Champions League qualification is imperative to Celtic following last year’s third qualifying round failure against AEK Athens that blotted Brendan Rodgers’ copybook – and, in light of his transfer frustrations surrounding it, may have played a part in his sharp exit to Leicester City that has heralded the second coming of Neil Lennon. He daren’t suffer any mishaps in the opening qualifying rounds when a section of the support aren’t onside with his permanent appointment.

For Rangers and Steven Gerrard, it is about achieving the remarkable all over again following the Ibrox side becoming the first Scottish team to negotiate four qualifying rounds in European competition. Both for the club’s finances and his credibility as a first-time coach, competing in the Europa League group stage – and almost making it beyond that stage - was huge in allowing Gerrard breathing space as domestic trophies eluded him.

Celtic will hope to avoid Polish champions Piast Gliwice in the Champions League first qualifying round draw, the second round also drawn on Tuesday. The club – home to former Motherwell and Dundee full-back and son of Mark in Tom Hateley – may have been surprise winners of their championship, which they have never captured previously in their 75-year history, but Polish football is of a far higher standing than any of the other opponents for Neil Lennon’s side, however. No-one will need reminding that the last occasion they met Poland’s title holders in these qualifiers, it required Legia Warsaw to bring on an ineligible player as a late substitute to deny them a 5-1 aggregate win.

Celtic, expected to negotiate the four qualifying rounds to the promised land in being planned seeds for all of these hurdles, would probably happily avoid a trip to Linfield in qualifiers to be played on 10/11 July and a week later. Unsavoury incidents when the clubs met in similar circumstances two years ago – which included a Buckfast bottle being thrown at Leigh Griffiths – is reputed to have led UEFA to have a rethink on their loose regionalisation of these early rounds. A decision which led Brendan Rodgers men to be posted to Armenia at this stage last season.

Assuming no initial mishaps, there are a number of potential awkward opponents for Celtic in the second qualifying round – these ties to be played on 23/24 July and the following midweek. These teams are of familiar hue, too, with Rosenborg, AIK Stockholm and Maccabi Tel Aviv all beaten by Celtic in the past two decades in Europe.

In the Europa League, the spread of possible adversaries for Rangers, Kilmarnock and Aberdeen – all seeded for the first qualifying round – are multitudinous. Or, to be exact, 47 teams. The trio could be taken from Armenia to Ireland and Wales. In terms of ties that would be welcomed, from a travel point of view anyway, and also provide a little spice, pairings with Irish clubs Shamrock Rovers and St Patrick’s Athletic, from the south, and Cliftonville, in the north, would certainly generate interest. There are numerous dangerous lurkers, from Romanian top seeds Universitatea Craiova, to famous Hungarian name Honved.

If all three Scottish clubs survive
their first tests, Rangers and Aberdeen will remain seeded. Kilmarnock, in their first European sortie since 2001-02, won’t, and could land a plum, but daunting tie. Wolves might be the biggest draw. Not since they lost to Leeds United in the Fair Cities Cup semi-final in 1967 have Killie faced English opposition in Europe. With Roma, Gent and Espanol among the top seeds, the legacy of the now mourned Steve Clarke era could be a stonking European night at Rugby Park.

PREFERRED OPPONENTS - AND THE ONES TO AVOID:

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Celtic: seeded in first qualifying round

Danger draws

Suduva Marijampole (Lithuania)

FK Sarajevo (Bosnia)

Piast Gliwice (Poland)

‘Take that’ ties

Saburtalo Tbilisi (Georgia)

Riga FC (Latvia)

HB Torshavn (Faroe Islands)

Potential second qualifying round

Danger draws

Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel)

Rosenborg (Norway)

HJK Helsinki (Finland)

‘Take that’ ties

The New Saints (Wales)

F91 Dudelange (Luxembourg)

Dundalk (Ireland)

EUROPA LEAGUE

Rangers, Kilmarnock, Aberdeen:

All seeded in first qualifying round

Danger draws

Universitatea Craiova (Romania)

DAC Dunajska Streda (Slovakia)

DVSC Debrecen (Hungary)

‘Take that’ ties

FK Zeta (Montenegro)

Gzira United (Malta)

KI Klaksvik (Faroe Islands)•

•Must qualify from preliminary round

Potential second qualifying round

Danger draws

Rangers and Aberdeen (seeded)

Zrinjski Mostar (Bosnia)

Kairat Almaty (Kazakhstan)

AEL Limassol (Cyprus)

Kilmarnock (unseeded)

Danger draws

Roma (Italy)

Wolves (England), pictured above

Espanol (Spain)

Rangers, Aberdeen (seeded)

‘Take that’ ties

FK Riteriai (Lithuania)

Buducnost Podgorica (Montenegro)

Levadia Tallinn (Estonia)

Kilmarnock (unseeded)

Zalgiris Vilnius (Lithuania)

Spartak Trnava (Slovakia)

Gabala FK (Azerbaijan)