AIK came through a tense final few moments in a 1-1 draw with Moldovans Sheriff in Stockholm last night to face Celtic in the Europa League playoff round, the first leg is in Glasgow on Thursday.
AIK were bottom seed in the Champions League first qualifying round, where they overcame Ararat-Armenia 4-3 on aggregate, but were bottom of the unseeded pack for the second round, which they lost 4-3 to Maribor. Maribor were beaten home and away by Rosenborg in the last round.
Last season AIK eliminated Shamrock Rovers from the Europa League qualifiers before losing home and away to Danes, Nordsjaelland.
Neil Lennon twice faced Swedish opposition in Champions League qualifiers in his first term at Celtic. Two comfortable 2-0 wins over Helsingborg in 2012 were followed by a more testing examination by Mo Bangura-inspired Elfsborg a year later, which resulted in a 1-0 aggregate win for Celtic.
Ronny Deila needed to overcome Malmo to reach the Champions League group stage in 2015 but despite racing into an early 2-0 lead, the first leg at Celtic Park was turned on its head when Malmo scored an added-time goal to make it 3-2. Jo Inge Berget, who Ronny had on loan months earlier, scored both Malmo goals. The Swedes won 2-0 a week later to knock Celtic out.
Although AIK are 19 games into their domestic league campaign, there should be a negligible gap in fitness by the time we face them on Thursday. There can be no excuses.
You and I were there in the dark summer of 2010, when Utrecht and Braga were the last teams to deny Celtic group stage football, and a year later, when Sion came within a CAS ruling of doing the same. It took Neil time to get it right, but a year later he earned 10 points in a tough Champions League group.
Before AIK, we have the small matter of a League Cup to defend against Dunfermline at Celtic Park tomorrow. Celtic have won a record 27 consecutive domestic cup games. Avoid defeat tomorrow and we set an unbeaten record. Let’s hope Dunfermline feel a backlash.