So it’s FC Copenhagen. We’d have taken that had it been offered rather than drawn out the hat. It would seem our Danish opponents think the same. Funny old game isn’t it?
The first leg tie will be played in Copenhagen on Thursday 20 February with the return at Celtic Park a week later on the 27 February.
Our Europa League Round of 32 opponents sit 2nd in the Danish Superliga. They finished their qualifying group behind Swedish side Malmo and you can read about how they got on in the Group stages HERE.
Celtic have been eliminated at this stage of the tournament in the past two seasons but I’m fairly confident we’ll be jumping clear of an extra hurdle this year. In last two season’s Celtic have exited to Zenit St Petersburg and last year to Valencia. The added advantage to winning the group is the fact we’re seeded this year. The trade-off for group success looks like being a far more winnable encounter than the last couple of years.
It’s over ten years since Celtic faced Copenhagen so there will be nothing to be gained for looking that far back.
Their European form has been OK but no more than that. Nine points from a possible eighteen available in the group doesn’t fill me with dread. Nor does the measly return of 5 goals in six games and only two wins from six matches is hardly reason for hiding behind the couch when the 20 February comes around.
Copenhagen’s domestic form also seems just as average. They currently lie seven points behind current Superliga leaders FC Midtylland in second place, though they do have a game in hand. Copenhagen are a further seven points clear of third placed AGF Aarhus. So far the Danes have conceded 21 goals in 19 games and they are the joint second highest scorers in the Danish league on 35 goals behind Brondby.
In short the confidence portrayed by Ståle Solbakken, Copenhagen’s Norwegian boss seem overstated, though he is possibly buoyed by recent league form that has seen Copenhagen win four of their last five matches including three straight wins in their last three games.
Apparently as reported earlier today in The Celtic Star, the Danes boss is already talking of the last 16. I’ve a feeling he’s not been paying attention to Celtic’s results this season before commenting.
We’ve already had a quick head to head with a Scandinavian opponent in AIK Stockholm and the Swedish champions were jettisoned without too much fuss in the qualifying round a 6-1 aggregate score in no way flattered Celtic.
Beyond that the Group stage performances of Celtic should fill the Danes with dread. Three straight home wins over Cluj Lazio and Rennes, then In the away match ups the Celts drew with the French Cup holders and arguably were very unlucky not to win and of course had the memorable last gasp win over Lazio in Rome, a team it has to be pointed out are doing rather well in their own domestic league. The only defeat for the Hoops occurred in the last dead rubber match where Neil Lennon played a mixture of fringe players and the future generation.
This is a winnable fixture for Celtic. The added advantage of course is having the second leg back at Celtic Park, by which time we’ll know exactly what is required of us and we’ll have a full house at Celtic Park to roar the boys on. No-one is saying this encounter is a penalty kick but in comparison to the last two years our last 32 opponents are nowhere near the standard of Valencia or Zenit St Petersburg.
If we are serious about the Celts being back as a European team of note then we should be expecting to see off FC Copenhagen. I fully expect us to progress and comfortably so.
I’m sure when Ståle Solbakken digs a little deeper into his opponents form this season his confidence may be replaced by real concern.
For Celtic it could well be the destination is Gdansk via Copenhagen. Neil Lennon spoke about this being a possibility today and also said that there’s a Recruitment meeting tomorrow. Maybe the two are linked, maybe not but what we must avoid is being under resourced in key positions in the squad come February and hopefully beyond because of the Board having another disappointingly inactive transfer window.
A top quality striker and another central defender please Peter! You know it makes (financial) sense! Here is Neil Lennon’s Media Conference from today where he talks about the draw against Copenhagen and tells the pack that there’s no reason why a Scottish team can’t reach the Europa League final this year.
ALSO ON THE CELTIC STAR…
Celtic Star Nir Bitton signs new three-and-a-half-year contract…see HERE.
Copenhagen’s Group Stage Journey – Little here for Celtic to fear…see HERE.
Opinion – Celtic are a magnet for wealthy people who like the media spotlight…see HERE.
Copenhagen Manager Makes Confident Statement after Celtic Draw…see HERE.