When we drew Maribor I wrote about their performance in last season’s Europa League, when they were eliminated by eventual winners, Sevilla. Our man, Blaz, in Slovenia, also warned me that this was a settled team who had improved since ending Rangers’ interest in European football three years ago.
I watched Red Bull Salzburg destroy Ajax in Amsterdam last season with some sublime football, and my pal in Austria tells me not to put too much store in their 3-0 humbling by Malmo, who, apparently, rode their luck to an incredible degree. Having said that, on the balance of probabilities, they are by far the top seed we would have chosen.
As Croatia Zagreb, Dinamo Zagreb bossed Celtic out of the Champions League play-off round in 1998, our first attempt at the tournament. Zagreb’s stock has fallen since, so while you could make a good case to suggest we are far from ready to tackle any European team right now, this is a good draw. They are also not Legia Warsaw, which would have been an unwelcome confrontation at this time.
So far, so good. Then we draw a complete unknown from pot 4, who happened to eliminate Lyon in the last round.
Between now and the middle of next month Celtic have to be ready for these challenges. We have an opportunity to progress in the Europa League, earn some badly needed coefficient points, and revenue in the second half of the season.
Bring it on.