Revenge on menu, storylines everywhere; Who Celtic could face in Europe after Christmas
Celtic are guaranteed to be in Europe after Christmas, following last night’s win over Ferencvaros.
Having only played 4 of our 6 Europa League games, that’s a good situation to be in.
Ange Postecoglou certainly believes there’s scope to progress past one of Bayer Leverkusen and Real Betis into second place.
Not only that, the Greek-Aussie manager is of the mind that European competition can only improve his Celtic squad. Certainly, that seems self-evident.
As a defensive unit, Celtic have taken valuable lessons from the Europa League thus far. Additionally, the team has had more chances to gel and form on-field partnerships, not least the front three, and our centre-backs.
That, and money. Obviously, there’s money involved.
In terms of tickets, competition bonuses and TV exposure, Celtic being in Europe is lucrative.
So, yes; a great situation to be in. But in terms of who we play after Christmas, there are some tasty names indeed.
As it stands, we know there’ll be some elite clubs who will either drop down into the Europa League, or the Europa Conference League.
With four games played in each European competition, who could Celtic be squaring off against?
The Jack Hendry revenge series? Who Celtic would potentially face in Europa League
Handily, my multi-talented colleague Hamish Carton has provided a visual guide to who Celtic could face in European competition after Christmas.
Should Celtic get into second place in Europa League Group G, there’ll be a play-off before the last-16. From this year, Champions League teams who drop down into the Europa League won’t be guaranteed progression.
From that pool of teams include Jack Hendry’s Club Brugge, who sit third in Group A after 4 games [UEFA]. Could the much-derided ex-Celtic defender get his revenge on the Hoops faithful?
In Group B, Porto and Atletico Madrid are duking it out for second place. Either would represent a huge test, and there’s undoubtedly history there. Dortmund and Sporting Club de Portugal are fighting for second place in Group C.
Elsewhere, Zenit St Petersburg look likely to drop down, along with one of Wolfsburg, Sevilla or Lille from Group G. Lille, of course, were beaten by the Bhoys at home in the Europa League last season.
Atalanta, Benfica and surprise package Sheriff, from the disputed territory of Transnistria, are also potential opposition. Those are some potentially fascinating ties.
Hart and Carter-Vickers v Spurs? Who Celtic could battle in the newest competition in Europe
Or, if Celtic are beaten to a Europa League spot, there’s no need to despair. There are plenty of big names there, too.
Roma, managed by José Mourinho, would be a fantastic draw. As would Jablonec, who Celtic beat in qualifying, and have a trumpet player in their home crowd. If they have to be beaten again, so be it.
Alternatively, it could be FC Basel. That’d be something of a treat for Albian Ajeti, who was prolific in Switzerland. From a historical point of view, it’d be another chance at revenge. FC Basel knocked Celtic out of Champions League qualifying, leading to the UEFA Cup run that ended with a final in Seville.
The most tantalising of all, though, is Tottenham Hotspur. Antonio Conte’s side let go of Joe Hart and Cameron Carter-Vickers (on loan) to Celtic in the summer.
A two-legged Battle of Britain (if you must) would certainly draw crowds.
In any event, the ties on offer are legitimately mouth-watering. And at the very least, Celtic have secured themselves a European platform for the New Year.
The longer-term ramifications of that are yet to be seen, but it can only be a good thing as Celtic continue a resurgence under Ange Postecoglou.