In a little over five hours, Nomme Kalju are in domestic league action, their 20th game of the season. 2018’s champions are level in the battle for third place with tonight’s opponents, Paide, so this will be a competitive encounter. All things considered, the forthcoming games against Celtic are less important than finishing third and qualifying for Europe next season.
They are five points off second and 10 from the top of the table. It has been a disappointing campaign for the two-time Estonian champions, the most significant positive being this week’s Champions League qualification win in Macedonia over Shkendija.
Like Kilmarnock, who went down to the other CQN last night, Shkendija are preseason, and having won away, should comfortably have taken care of business in the second leg, but weakness in the other kind of legs is likely to have been their downfall. Both teams were clearly drained from their first competitive action of the season, leading to bizarre results.
Nomme probably have the lowest economic footprint of any club Celtic have faced in European football (Lincoln Red Imps may just edge them). Wednesday’s game at Celtic Park will certainly contribute more to the economy than their entire 2018 exploits. This tie is a fairy tale for Nomme Kalju, who will transform their 2019 economic footprint with TV rights for the home game, and a gift to Celtic, who had the far tougher task of overcoming Rosenborg at the same stage a year ago.
The European draw gods were unkind last season, let’s hope they continue to pitch softly to us for another few rounds.