Seven things Celtic fans should know about likely Europa League opponents AIK

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With Celtic dropping into the Europa League following Tuesday's 5-4 aggregate defeat to Cluj, Craig Fowler has looked at their likely opponents in the play-off round of the Europa League.

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They're massive favourites to advance

Manager Rikard Norling speaks to his AIK players during a Europe League qualifier.

Manager Rikard Norling speaks to his AIK players during a Europe League qualifier.

Writing this article may seem a little presumptuous - kind of like Celtic fans booking flights to Prague prior to Tuesday night - but it does seem highly likely that AIK will be the side advancing to the play-off round to meet Neil Lennon's men. They won their away leg against Moldovan side Sheriff Tiraspol and are around 1/9 to advance later this evening.

They are halfway through their season

Oh joy. If Celtic are eliminated by the Swedes we're going to get the latest batch of "why don't we move to summer football?!" hysteria despite little appetite for it within club boardrooms or evidence that it would help in any way.

AIK have played 19 times so far this campaign in the league and currently sit second in the table, just a point off the top. They've won eight of their last ten matches (inside 90 minutes), so they're in good form.

They're reigning Swedish champions

AIK took home the grand prize in Swedish football towards the end of 2018, winning the Allsvenskan for the first time since 1999.

Like Celtic, they have dropped into the Europa League following disappointment in their attempts to reach the group stages of the Champions League and the Scrooge McDuck levels of wealth that come with it. The difference between the two sides was that AIK exited at the second qualifying round, cruelly going out on away goals to Maribor. A goal three minutes from the end of extra-time in the second leg tie saw AIK's hopes dashed.

As yet we've been unable to discover who the Swedish version of Alan McInally is or how he took the news.

They haven't enjoyed much in the way of European success

The last time they qualified for the group stages of the Europa League was in 2012-13, where they finished fourth in a group including Dnipro, Napoli and PSV. They last qualified for the Champions League groups in season 1999-00 when they faced Arsenal, Barcelona and Fiorentina. You'll recognise this as a time when Champions League groups were still competitive and not just an excuse for bigger clubs to make more money.

We had a quick look for any Progres Niederkorn, Birkikara or Connah's Quay Nomads in their recent history but, alas, they've only actually been beaten by decent teams.

They've got former EPL star Sebastian Larsson within their ranks

This will be the most familiar face to British football fans within the Swede's ranks. Larsson spent 14 years in English football, most of it in the Premier League with Arsenal, Birmingham City and Sunderland. He's got 113 caps for his country and has appeared at three major finals, including the 2018 World Cup.

They've one of the oldest squads in the Swedish top flight

AIK have the fourth oldest squad in the Allsvenskan, a league of 16. In fact, most of the key players in the team are in their 30s. Top goalscorer Tarik Elyounoussi is 31, Seb Larsson is 34. Then there's strike-pairing Henok Goitom and Chinedu Obasi Ogbuke, 34 and 33 respectively, along with centre-backs Panajotis Dimitriadis and Per Karlsson, both 33.

In fact, the only star man who isn't in his 30s is goalkeeper Oscar Linner who, at 22, is already considered one of the best goalkeepers in the country, if not the undisputed No.1.

They're not the most predatory of attacking teams

Celtic's opponents have netted 28 times in 19 league games - 16 behind Hammarby who have netted the most and five fewer than league leaders Djurgarden. They are only tenth for shots attempted, third fewest for shots from distance, rank around the median for crosses and are second bottom for one-on-one dribbling. They're not a particularly exciting team.

They are, however, organised, disciplined and play the game with a good head on their collective shoulders. More of the tomfoolery we saw against Cluj and Celtic could be unceremoniously dumped by European football altogether.

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