Celtic were one of five seeds from the Champions League, champions’ section, in the last round, but only one of the other seeds is still in the competition, so while seeding is welcome, it would be a mistake to read too much into it.
I’ve no idea what happened in Malmo last night, where the Swedish champions overturned Salzburg’s two goal lead from the first leg in a remarkable first half, and are a potential opponent for Celtic in today’s draw. At half time I still fancied Salzburg to get things together and qualify, but Swedish football gets its act together every now and then. There appears to be some substance to this Malmo team.
A trip to Albania to play Skenderbeu would be ideal. They are a small town club who are in the play-off round after beating Crusaders and Moldovan’s Milsami Orhei. It would also give those of us who’ve been around for a while a chance to bore the rest of you about that great game against Partizan Tirana.
A return to Astana is also possible, this time to play FK Astana, who beat HKJ Helsinki in the last round. The most alarming fact about Astana is that they beat Maribor in the second round. You remember Maribor? The name sounds familiar but I can’t place them.
The team with the highest coefficient we can face is Maccabi Tel-Aviv. Maccabi overcame a first leg defeat to Hibernians (the Maltese Hibs, that is). They then lost at home to Czechs Viktoria Plzen but a two goal victory in Plzen saw them through. I missed the preseason game against Sparta Prague, what shape is Czech club football in?
Former finalists Partizan Belgrade are the fifth and final possibility. They beat the Georgian champions before seeing off seeded former winners Steaua Bucharest in the third round. So although Skenderbeu would be my choice, a trip to Belgrade would be a decent alternative.
Reading through the list, the one thing which is evident is that Champions League football would be transformational for every team in the ‘champions’ side of the draw. The aspirations invested in qualifying will be huge. The Albanians would earn around 20 times their annual income. Expect every trick in the book.