Leigh Griffiths: Celtic fans sick of Barcelona, we want Real Madrid

Celtic are hoping to celebrate their latest Champions League jackpot by being drawn with reigning champions and top seeds Real Madrid in today's group stage draw.
Leigh Griffiths scored for Celtic against Astana. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNSLeigh Griffiths scored for Celtic against Astana. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS
Leigh Griffiths scored for Celtic against Astana. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

The Scottish champions, who can expect to earn around £30 million from their second consecutive season among the last 32 of Europe’s elite club competition, are making no secret of their desire to face the most successful side in the tournament’s history.

Following their 8-4 aggregate win over Astana of Kazakhstan in the play-off round this week, a number of Celtic players have expressed their enthusiasm to land in a group which includes 12-times European champions Real.

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Celtic’s only previous competitive meeting with the Spanish giants came in the quarter-finals of the European Cup in 1980 when Real won a dramatic tie 3-2 on aggregate.

By contrast, Celtic have regularly come up against Real’s great rivals Barcelona – playing them three times in the Champions League group stage in the last five seasons.

“It would be nice [to be drawn against Real Madrid],” said Celtic midfielder Callum McGregor ahead of today’s draw at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco which begins at 5pm.

“It would be a change from Barcelona. It feels great to be in the Champions League for the second season running.”

Striker Leigh Griffiths, who scored a 90th-minute goal as Celtic lost the second leg 4-3 to Astana after trailing 4-1, was typically more direct.

“I think every Celtic fan is sick of getting Barcelona, so we will try to avoid them, but we are back in the big time again and it is great for everyone involved,” said Griffiths.

“You wouldn’t mind going in with the big guns, Real Madrid, PSG [Paris St Germain], one of those.” 
Griffiths admitted his concern at missing a good chance in the Astana Arena shortly before Celtic’s aggregate lead was cut to 6-4.

“We got an earful from the manager telling us to keep the ball and make them run and in the second half for the first ten or 15 minutes we collapsed,” he said. “They scored two goals in quick succession and then I got a chance to put the ball in the back of the net and didn’t do it and about 25 seconds later they go up the pitch and scored.

“I almost fell to my knees to be honest. With my quality I have to be burying that. Later on I scored with my right foot which was a harder chance than the one I missed.”