Many Celtic fans may look at next week’s trip to Riga as a bit of a gimme.
Sure, Neil Lennon’s men have already stumbled in Europe this season. But Latvia? C’mon.
A glimpse of their second round result – a 1-0 home win over San Marino’s Tre Fiore – will have even more convinced that we should have no problems out in eastern Europe.
However, a broader look at Riga’s recent European results shows they are no mugs.
We’ve got Copenhagen in common
We share something in common with our Latvian foes – other than being the champions of our country.
Both of our European seasons were ended by the same team last year: FC Copenhagen.
The Danes dispatched Riga in the playoff round of the Europa League last term, denying them a glory spot in the 48 team group stage.
It was a close fought tie though. Riga beat Copenhagen 1-0 at home but lost 3-1 in Denmark, exiting the tie by the slimmest of margins.
Given that Stale Solbakken’s men would go on to reach the quarters of the competition, beating us by two aggregate goals on the way, the result is no embarrassment for the Latvian minnows.
Riga’s Europa League run also saw them eliminate both Polish champions Piast Gliwice and Finland’s winners HJK Helsinki.
Make no mistake about it. This is a side with a bit of recent European pedigree.
Sure, a win over us next week would probably be the biggest in their history. But they’re not to be taken lightly.