Former Hearts striker Husref Musemic has admitted facing Celtic was the draw he dreaded for his Sarajevo side in the first qualifying round of the Champions League.
Celtic will meet opposition from Bosnia for the first time in their European history when they start their latest quest to reach the lucrative group stage next month.
The Scottish champions are scheduled to be at home in the first leg on 9 or 10 July before travelling to the Bosnian capital for the second leg against Musemic’s team the following week.
Celtic will be heavy favourites to overcome Sarajevo who were crushed 10-2 on aggregate by Italian side Atalanta in the second qualifying round of the Europa League last season.
They have strengthened and improved since then under the ownership of Vietnamese businessman Nguyen Hoai Nam who bought a majority stake in the club from Vincent Tan, the Malaysian owner of Cardiff City.
Musemic guided them to a Bosnian league and cup double last season, earning him a new two-year contract as head coach which he signed this week.
The 57-year-old still has fond memories of his brief spell at Hearts, signing for £200,000 from Red Star Belgrade in the summer of 1989. Musemic scored four goals in nine appearances, including a derby winner against Hibs, before leaving to join Sarajevo as a player in January 1990. He is now in his fifth spell as manager of the club.
Musemic, who made his debut for Hearts against Celtic, is under no illusions about the size of the task facing his players against the Scottish champions.
“I watched the draw and honestly hoped we would not get Celtic,” said Musemic. “But that’s the way the balls came out and it’s up to us to play whatever opponent we get.
“It’s the toughest draw we could have got but also the most attractive opponent which should make it a great spectacle when they come to our stadium.
“I followed Celtic quite a lot last year. We were able to watch their game against Alashkert in the Champions League qualifiers because we were in Armenia at the same time. But they have probably changed since then after Brendan Rodgers left to go back to England.
“But we know roughly how all teams from Britain play, so we now have to get ready to try and do better than we did in Europe last year.
“I hope we learned something from that defeat against Atalanta. Celtic are another top level team and we certainly need to be careful and not concede so many cheap goals against them.
“We need to be smarter and have more discipline and concentration when we play in Europe. I believe we can find ways to confront them and achieve a favourable result in Glasgow which will give us a chance in the second leg in Sarajevo.
“It will be a nice experience for me personally to go back to Scotland. My debut for Hearts against Celtic was in front of a big crowd at Tynecastle with a great atmosphere. Although we lost the game 3-1, we played well and it remains a great memory of my career.”
The away leg for Celtic will be played at the Kosevo City Stadium in Sarajevo, a 34,500-capacity venue with a natural grass pitch which also hosts the home matches of the Bosnian national team.
Celtic full-back Kieran Tierney admits it will be a step into the unknown against Sarajevo but has no doubts he and his team-mates can prevail.
“You don’t get easy games or bad teams in Europe nowadays,” said Tierney. “Every team is good and they know how to play football. They’re all well organised so there’s a clear standard to the football in that regard.
“They’re going to be hard to break down and they’ll come at us as well. We’re going into the unknown against a team we’ve never played and against players we’ve never faced. It’s a hard ask, but the expectation at Celtic is to win and go through and that’s what we’re planning to do.
“The confidence is always high at the start of the season. We’ve come back off the back of another treble. You can’t do any better than that. We’ve just won a trophy in our last game so going into our first competitive game we’re going to have confidence.”
The losers of the Celtic-Sarajevo tie will drop into the Europa League where they will receive a bye into the third qualifying round.
The second qualifying round draw for the Champions League will take place at Uefa headquarters in Nyon at 11am on Wednesday.