If Celtic overcome FK Sarajevo in the Champions League first qualification round they will face either Macedonians, FK Shkendija or Nomme Kalju, from Estonia. Shkendija are first round seeds.
Last season Shkendija eliminated Welsh side The New Saints in a remarkable tie, winning the first leg 5-0 and losing the return 4-0. They then eliminated Moldovans, Sheriff Tiraspol 1-0 on aggregate before Salzburg knocked them out 4-0 on aggregate (no shame there). Our old pals Rosenborg then knocked them out at the Europa League play-off round, 5-1 on aggregate.
In 2018 Shkendija won cofomrtably against Moldovan opponents in the Europa first qualifying round, then beat HJK Helsinki in the second round and Luthianians Trakai in the third. This setup a trip to the San Siro for the team from Tetovo (population 52,000), where they lost 6-0.
Nomme Kalju exited last season’s Europa League at the first round to Stjarnan, our pals from Iceland.
It is almost certain Shkendija will progress to the second round. They are one of the better teams who float around the qualifiers without ever reaching a group stage, but Celtic should have enough in the tank to progress through both opening rounds. Happy to take this draw.
It is clear Celtic wanted David Turnbull, but not at any price. Wage structures have been broken for ‘the right player’ but everyone needs to have signed up to the view that the player in question is worthy of breaking the structure. The player and his agent are entitled to shop around for the highest wage.
Still, it is another one that got away. Stiffer challenges than Sarajevo, Shkendija and Kalju will arrive in August.