On-loan Celtic man secures European group stage football
Celtic goalkeeper Conor Hazard will be playing European group stage football this season with current loan side HJK Helsinki.
The 24-year-old shot-stopper joined the Finnish Champions in the January transfer window as he went in search of regular football.
The young goalkeeper came through into the first team under ex-Hoops boss Neil Lennon making a handful of appearances in the 2020/21 season.
Famously, Hazard also played his part in the Bhoys quadruple treble success, becoming the penalty shootout hero in the Scottish Cup final against Hearts.
However, the Northern Irishman has failed to break into Ange Postecoglou’s plans since the 56-year-old’s arrival last summer.
After joining in the winter window, the goalkeeper was given some time to settle in at Helsinki before the competitive action in Finland got underway in March.
During his first eight months on loan, the goalkeeper has made 22 appearances, keeping nine clean sheets, with his side currently sitting 2nd as they look to retain their title.
The Celtic loanee and his teammates haven’t just had domestic action to look forward to in Finland, though, with HJK Helsinki also being involved in European qualifiers.
The Finnish side started off in the early rounds of Champions League qualifying, reaching the 2nd round. However, it was at that stage they were knocked out by Plzen of the Czech Republic.
HJK were then entered into the third round of Europa League qualifying, taking on a familiar foe of Celtic in Europe – Slovenian side Maribor.
The tie was concluded on Thursday evening and saw the Finnish Champions come out on top defeating Maribor 3-0 on aggregate.
Hazard’s side will now face one more qualifying round, up against Silkeborg of Denmark, with a place in this season’s Europa League up for grabs.
However, no matter the outcome of their last European qualifier, HJK Helsinki are now guaranteed a group stage place in the UEFA Europa conference league, at the very least.
It should prove to be a fantastic experience for the Celtic loanee, becoming a regular first-team goalkeeper and playing in huge European fixtures across the next few months.
With the goalkeeper coming into the final year of his contract at Parkhead, it doesn’t appear as though he will have much of a future under Ange Postecoglou.
However, if there is a stage that you want to impress any potential suitors or your loan club on, it is in these high-stakes European matches.
We wish Conor all the best of luck for next week’s final qualifier. But, either way, it should be great to see one of our academy graduates getting the chance to perform on a European stage.