Everything you need to know about Celtic's Champions League opposition
Whoever we drew in Champions League qualifying today, Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou was going to be up against it.
However, these are the ties he craved. This is what he moved across the world for, and it couldn’t be a better testing ground. With FC Midtjylland, it’s kind of perfect. They’re a team we should absolutely respect, yet they’re close to us in terms of quality. To win this round would be a huge boost to his early support at Paradise.
In terms of that quality, FC Midtjylland have had a decent few seasons, after emerging from out of nowhere. Led by former Celtic man Erik Sviatchenko, the side from Jutland won the league title in 19-20, and finished second in 20-21, just two points adrift of Brondby.
There’s some star men in the side, too. Bringing back Pione Sisto, formerly of Celta Vigo, was a coup for the Danes, and he’s repaid their faith with 8 goals and 2 assists in 20-21. On the other flank, Anders Dreyer could be a real handful. In just 61 appearances, the winger has scored 15 goals and set up a further 17 [Transfermarkt]. Oddly, he’s shone ever since spending a mediocre loan spell with St Mirren.
In midfield, keeping Jens-Lys Cajuste quiet will be a challenge. One of our midfielders to watch at Euro 2020, the Sweden international has been attracting interest from Monaco and Rennes [Foot Mercato], as well as former Champions League opponents Borussia Mönchengladbach [Buli News].
Ange Postecoglou will need to largely rely on current Celtic players to navigate Champions League qualifiers
There are some crumbs of comfort; Midtjylland haven’t seen much joy out of European competition over recent seasons. They were knocked out of Europa League qualifying by – of all teams – Rangers in 2019 [BBC]. In last year’s Champions League, they drew Ajax, Atalanta and Liverpool. Fans of underdog triumphs look away now; they managed just 2 points from 6 games, although a draw against Klopp’s Reds was more than creditable [Sky Sports].
With frighteningly little time to prepare, it seems likely that familiar names will be relied upon once again. Ange Postecoglou will reportedly take training from next week, giving him around a month of planning to do. It’ll be tricky, then, to bring in players before the registration deadline, let alone having them gel with the first-team quickly enough.
That doesn’t have to be such a bad thing. There’s a core of players still at Celtic who have navigated play-off rounds before. While reinforcements are needed in key positions, not least at right-back, the Bhoys could still put a capable side out against FC Midtjylland. It may require some tactical tweaks, however, and Postecoglou’s attacking, fluid style of play may be hard to implement in time.
Still, there’s reason for optimism. Midtjylland are a good side, yes, but any of the three teams we drew would’ve represented a stern challenge. Here’s hoping Postecoglou can pass his first test as Celtic boss.