With the First Qualifying Round ties now completed, the potential picture for Celtic becomes slightly clearer. Ahead of Monday’s Third Qualifying Round draw, here is a brief summary of what’s new.
So who’s out?
Three of the sixteen seeded teams fell at the first hurdle. Biggest shock was Cypriot champions Apoel Nicosia losing to FK Suduva, Celtic’s first opponents on the Road to Seville. Apoel were seeded third for this round (Celts were second behind Ludogorets) and were possible opponents in the final play-off round, should we both have progressed that far. Old foes Qarabag of Azerbaijan will now replace them in that ‘what if?’ scenario.
Further down the draw, Welsh champions The New Saints were knocked out by Shkendija of Macedonia, despite an astonishing attempt at coming back from a five-goal first-leg defeat, in a re-run of Gordon Strachan’s first Euro tie for Celtic, against Artmedia Bratislava in 2005. Like Celts, they managed four and were sadly eliminated, however, unlike us they will transfer into the Europa League qualifying phase.
Also out are the bottom seeds, Zrinjski Mostar of Bosnia, beaten by Slovak champions Spartak Trnava.
As the second Qualifying Round draw had already been made, all three unseeded winners will take the place of their seeded opponents in the next round, with ties commencing next week.
Normal seeding protocols will then kick in for Monday’s Third Qualifying Round draw. This will involve six ties, with Celtic or Rosenborg’s opponents coming from the following group:
• AEK Athens – joining the tournament at this stage
• Malmo or Cluj
• BATE Borisov or HJK Helsinki
• Dinamo Zagreb or Hapoel Be’er Sheva
• Sheriff Tiraspol or Shkendija
• Red Star Belgrade or Suduva
These games will take place in the midweeks of 7/8 August and 14/15 August.
The six losing clubs will then transfer into the next qualifying phase for the Europa League.
The draw for the next and final qualifying round of the Champions League, the play-offs, will have taken place before those ties, on Monday 6 August. Hence, by the time all of this has played out, there will inevitably be further changes. As things stand, however, the following four teams will be unseeded in the play-off round and would provide potential opposition for seeded Celtic:
• Young Boys of Berne – joining the tournament at this stage
• Legia Warsaw
The play-off round will take place on 21/22 August and 28/29 August.
Thanks and appreciation are again due to Bert Kassies, whose website is an ongoing source of valuable information.