Scott Brown believes Celtic face their toughest ever challenge to reach the group stage of the Champions League as they prepare to join Uefa’s revamped qualification process for Europe’s elite club competition.
While Celtic will be a seeded team throughout, they now have to come through four qualifying rounds to reach the group phase of the tournament, one more round than in previous years.
The Scottish Premiership winners will be paired with one of six possible opponents in today’s first qualifying round draw in Nyon after Uefa yesterday divided the ballot into three separate groups of seeded and unseeded teams.
The potential opponents are: Slovakian champions Spartak Trnava, Armenian side Alashkert, Latvia’s Spartaks Jurmala, Valletta of Malta, Estonian champions Flora Tallin or Montenegrin side Sutjeska Niksic.
Celtic captain Brown said: “Uefa seem to making it harder and harder for us to get there.
“We’ve made it a few times, we’ve done it in the last two years which gives us hope, but then they make it harder and harder. We just need to make sure that, no matter what they put in our way, we need to jump over those hurdles.
“We’ll get whoever we get. I’m not worried too much about it. I don’t take too much notice of who we can get before the draw is made. Someone will come out to the training pitch on Tuesday and let us know who it is. We’ll see what happens and take it from there.
“It could be anyone – it could be hard or easy but we have to be ready for the games in three weeks. I just hope we get the best draw possible and get into the next round.
“We’re getting stronger and better so we need to push on and get into the Champions League proper. That’s the main thing we need to do at the start of the season.
“It would be a better achievement than the last time because it’s getting harder and harder but I don’t think it’s like winning a trophy. It’s something our fans expect us to do and it’s what we want as well.”
The draw for the second qualifying round will also take place today with Celtic in the “champions path” section, which would see them face other domestic title winners.
The first leg of the first qualifying round tie will be on 10 or 11 July, with the second leg the following midweek.