Riga FC v Celtic: The lowdown on the Latvian side looking to stun Scottish champions

A detailed look at Neil Lennon’s opposition in the Europa League tomorrow night
Celtic are in action in Riga on Thursday evening.Celtic are in action in Riga on Thursday evening.
Celtic are in action in Riga on Thursday evening.

Celtic face a trip to Latvia after dropping down into the Europa League from the Champions League.

The Hoops take on Riga FC in the third qualifying round on Thursday, with an away game against Sarajevo or Buducnost Podgorica awaiting the winners in the play-off round.

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Here is the lowdown on the opening opponents for Neil Lennon's team …

FormRiga are sitting pretty in their bid to win their third straight domestic title. With 17 wins and just two losses since June's delayed start to the Latvian season - which normally kicks off in March - they have a four-point lead at the top over local rivals Rigas FS. Their Champions League campaign did not go far, as they lost 2-0 in Israel to Maccabi Tel Aviv. But, after dropping down to the Europa League, they claimed a 1-0 win over San Marino minnows Tre Fiori to set up their showdown with Celtic.

ManagerFormer Spartak Moscow boss Oleg Kononov has recent experience of taking on Scottish opposition. His first game in charge of the Russian giants in November 2018 was a thrilling 4-3 win over Rangers. But he lasted less than a year in Moscow and resigned after his side were denied a place in last term's Europa League group stages by Braga. The former Belarusian player of the year has also managed in Moldova and Ukraine.

PlayersStriker Kule Mbombo has made an immediate impact since joining earlier this year. The former Anderlecht youngster, who hails from the Democratic Republic of Congo, has netted 11 times in just 10 starts so far.

European recordFormed in 2014 following the merger of FC Caramba Riga and Dinamo Riga, it did not take the unified outfit long to qualify for the Europa League. Their first attempt ended with a first qualifying round defeat to CSKA Sofia. They suffered another early Champions League exit last term as they lost on penalties to Dundalk of Ireland. They were given a second go in the Europa League but, after beating Poles Piast Gliwice and HJK Helsinki of Finland, saw their hopes of the group stages crumble in Denmark as Copenhagen claimed a narrow 3-2 aggregate win.

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