BRENDAN RODGERS will keenly view the draw for the opening two rounds of the Champions League qualifiers when it is made on Monday.
Treble-winning Celtic go into the competition at the second stage.

The Hoops are the highest seeded team in the second round and will find themselves paired against one of 17 possibilities, 12 of which are confirmed and five will be determined by the winners of the first qualifier.

That takes place among 10 teams from the smallest teams in Europe. The five winners will progress to the second stage.

The Bhoys made it through to the group stages of the Champions League last time out, but there were anxious moments in their final two rounds with both Astana and Hapoel Be’er Sheeva proving to be difficult opponents.

Rodgers has taken no risks with his preparations for this summer as he gears up for what can be termed the most important games of the season.

There were lucrative pre-season friendly tournaments on offer for the Parkhead club, a facility they have cashed in on in other summer with long-haul trips to Australia and America.

But there was no chance of Rodgers putting his plans in possible jeopardy with long-hail tours that could backfire.

The Hoops boss said: “There are no glamour games planned. Celtic could go to Boston, I went there with Liverpool and had a great pre-season, but you can’t really do it when you’ve got such important games three weeks into the season.
“So, you just have to do your work here then get away for 10 days and work hard, bond and get some good games.

“I would like to think going into the qualifiers we will be a stronger squad. We will retain the ones we have and then touch wood we will be able to make the additions we want.

“There’s a real happiness in the group. They like how they are being asked to play and how we work. I think they see the benefits of it and our goals are beyond this season.

“So, arriving into the qualifiers, hopefully we will be in a good place. We will certainly be in a much better place than we were last year.

“It doesn’t make it any less anxious, but, at least, we’ll be much better prepared for it.”

The amount generated by qualification for the group stages is colossal and the champions are believed to have raked in something in the region of £30million for their group games against Barcelona, Manchester City and Borussia Monchengladbach last term.

Due to their seeding Celtic will avoid the likes of Red Bull Salzburg, Copenhagen, Bate Borisov, APOEL and Maribor.

The 12 possible opponents for the Hoops are already confirmed, but there will be five other names in the hat when the opening round has been complete. The 12 confirmed teams so far are:

Zilina (Slovakia), Zalgiris Vilnius (Lithuania), Dundalk (Ireland), Vardar (Macedonia), F91 Dudelange Luxembourg), Kukesi (Albania), Zrinjski Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Buducnost Podgorica (Montenegro), Honved (Hungary), IFK Mariehamn (Finland), Spartaks Jurmala (Latvia) and Samtredia (Georgia)


The expectation is that Celtic progress from round two before they go into the third and once again be seeded.

This round splits into two sections – the champions route and league route.

Rodgers’ men will enter the champions route with both draws made on July 14.

Ties will be played July 25/26 and August 1/2.

The 17 winners in round two will join Olympiakos (Greece), Slavia Prague (Czech Republic) and Viitorul Constanta (Romania) in the champions draw.

The play-off spot is the toughest of all to negotiate with Europe’s top leagues all expected to have representatives at that stage.

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