Celtic could face Northern Irish rivals Linfield in Champions League qualifier

By David Walton

May 28, 2019

One of the potential opponents for Celtic in Champions League qualifying this summer could be old foes Linfield.

The Danske Bank Premiership champions took the league title last month. David Healy could face Neil Lennon for the first time in a managerial duel thanks to their title win too. Linfield managed to win the title by seven points, securing their second league title in three years as they wrestled it back off Crusaders.

Therefore, Linfield have managed to bank one of the unseeded ranks in the first qualifying round of Europe’s Premier club competition. Celtic still have to face four qualifying rounds this season, and will be hoping to go a couple of stages further than last term.

Celtic still owe fans for their sorry showing in Athens (MB Media/Getty Images)

Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic failed to get past Greek champions AEK Athens in the third qualifying round last season. But it was the season before that when the Hoops faced Linfield for the first time in competitive action.

Celtic won 2-0 at Windsor Park before hammering the Northern Irish outfit 4-0 at Celtic Park in the second-leg. It was as routine and simple as you could’ve hoped for with regards to a European qualifier. And, at this early stage, it’s looking like the most attractive draw for our first qualifying round opponents.

Linfield would suit us best

This fixture, of course, holds potential trouble in terms of crowd violence. Considering any potential draw would also likely involve Lennon’s return to Windsor Park, the potential danger of the fixture speaks for itself.

Celtic wiped the floor with Linfield back in 2017 (David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

But in terms of travel distance and difficulty, this would surely suit us nicely. Other potential opponents include Romanian Champions CFR Cluj and Polish Champions Piast Gliwice respectively. The majority of teams outside of those don’t look too taxing, but avoiding long journeys into Europe would be ideal.

There are a number of potential firsts for Celtic in the draw too. The likes of Riga FC, Valleta, and Ferencvaros would all offer fresh challenges. But it would be best to play a team we know much better.

Neil Lennon could take charge of his first European match as Celtic boss since 2013 (Vagelis Georgariou/Action Plus via Getty Images)

There is also a feeling that we allowed Linfield off lightly at Windsor Park too. The 2-0 victory there under Rodgers back in 2017 was efficient, but it was hardly a doing. It would be nice to show the Danske Bank Premiership champions what we’re truly capable of.

The draw will take place on June 18th, where Celtic will learn both their first qualifying and (hopefully) second qualifying round opponents. But at this early stage, Linfield looks ideal.