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CELTIC’S OLD FOES IN EUROPA BALLOT

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FOUR of Celtic old European foes have dropped out of the Champions League to take their place in the Europa Cup.

Ajax, RB Salzburg, Inter Milan and Benfica will join the Hoops in the last-32 draw in Nyon at noon on Monday.

The four teams will, of course, be seeded for the knock-our stages after toppling out of Europe’s elite competition as third-placed sides in their groups.

It was a night of high drama at the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam as Ajax, beaten by a last-kick winner by Spurs in last season’s Champions League semi-final, lost 1-0 to Valencia who ended a remarkable confrontation with nine men.

The Spaniards went through to the knock-out phase along with Chelsea who won 2-1 at home to Lille.

RB Salzburg, who defeated Brendan Rodgers’ team home and away last term, crashed 2-0 in Austria at home to holders Liverpool with Virgil van Dijk again in charge to lock the Anfield side’s back door. Jurgen Klopp’s men and Napoli, who sacked Carlo Ancelotti after the game, won through. The Italians walloped Gent 4-0, but it wasn’t enough to save the manager’s job and Everton are now interested.

Inter, who provided the opposition in Celtic’s finest European moment in Lisbon on May 25 1967, crashed 2-1 at home to Barcelona while Benfica overwhelmed Zenit St Petersburg in the Portuguese capital to claim third place behind RB Leipzig and Lyon.

The seeded clubs will play away from home on February 20 with the return leg the following week.

Celtic and Sevilla are the only Europa League sides guaranteed top spot and it will not be until the final whistles tomorrow night the before the participating teams will be determined.

 

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