The date Celtic will find out European destiny
So, with Celtic facing Real Betis in the Europa League on Thursday night, it’s easy to start thinking ahead. Not because the Andalusians’ trip to Parkhead is a dead rubber, you understand.
Even though there’s always incentive for Celtic to go right at European opposition, the fact remains we’re in the new Europa Conference League once UEL Group G is finished. You can either look at it as an exciting opportunity to make noise in a brand new competition, or as a consolation. Or a distraction. Really, the choice is yours.
But how do we know who we’re going to play? Who might we be up against? And for the love of God, when do we find out?!
Wonder no more. UEFA have announced that the draw for the knock-out round is on the 13th of December [UEFA].
How does the knock-out format work? Well, it’s pretty exciting. The draw sees the winners of the ECL group stages get a bye to the last 16. Celtic, however, will be in the knock-out play-offs, where second-placed ECL teams square off against third place Europa League sides.
The former will be seeded, the latter unseeded.
Teams who finished second in the ECL group stage will have the return leg at their ground, providing a potential boost for those who have been in the competition for longer.
Sound straight-forward enough?
Celtic can make some noise in the Europa Conference League, after tough Europa League group
Undoubtedly, the preference would be to play Europa League football beyond Christmas, but the might of Real Betis and Bayer Leverkusen was too much this year.
With Ange Postecoglou having performed significant surgery on this Celtic side, you could legitimately argue European football was a free hit this year. Being in the Europa League at least saw us pick up two wins and really take the game to some big European sides. That’s something.
The Europa Conference League, though, is a fun opportunity. There are beatable teams in there, but also sides that represent fun away days, or a chance to measure ourselves.
Some teams we might face? Well, at the time of writing, there are some fun ones: Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Partizan Belgrade, Roma, Randers or Jablonec, Slavia Prague or Union Berlin, Slovan Bratislava or PAOK, Tottenham or Vitesse, and one of Basel or Qarabag [UEFA].
You’d fancy Celtic against any of those teams over two legs. Tottenham certainly holds allure, as a battle between Scotland and England, but there are some tasty ties in the midst of those names.
It’ll be fun at the very least. Next Monday, we’ll have a clear view of what awaits us in 2022.