Celtic have not yet played Nomme Kalju in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League, but are due to be included in the third qualifying round draw on Monday.

The Hoops will find out their potential opponents ahead of taking on the Estonian champions.

A number of new teams enter the Champions Path of the process including last year’s semi-finalists Ajax.


However, Celtic are seeded and will avoid most of the big hitters.

There is one team in particular we should hope to avoid though – Greek champions PAOK.

PAOK in the Champions League

(Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Why so dangerous?

As evidenced last year, the standard of opponent coming out of Greece can hurt us badly. Celtic crashed out to AEK Athens at the same stage of qualifying under Brendan Rodgers.

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Drawing 1-1 at home before losing 2-1 abroad, the margins were tight in the tie but the Hoops didn’t deserve to go through.

PAOK are a seasoned European outfit and last season beat Basel and Spartak Moscow in qualifying before losing out to Benfica in the Play Off round.

They went on to flop in the group stages of the Europa League but clearly can’t be discounted in summer knockout ties.

Boasting experienced internationalists in a number of positions including Sverrir Inga Ingason in defence and Miroslav Stoch in attack, they would provide a stern test.

The Hoops are seeded for a reason, second behind Ajax, so no team will relish facing us either but the Greek double winners are clearly the team to dread from the unseeded section.

Celtic celebrate a goal in the Champions League

(Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Not all doom and gloom

The other teams in the draw we could face are the winners of:

  • Qarabag/Dundalk
  • Maribor/AIK
  • Red Star Belgrade/HJK Helsinki
  • Maccabi Tel Aviv/Cluj
  • Valletta/Ferencvaros.

Any team making it to the third qualifying round are unlikely to be pushovers.

However, Celtic have seen off the likes of Qarabag, Helsinki and clubs from Israel before.

If we make it past Nomme Kalju there’s every reason to expect further progress.

Neil Lennon is an experienced operator at this qualifying business. He has guided us to the group stages of the Champions League twice before.

If we play to the best of our abilities, there’s every chance we get there again.

Tomorrow’s draw takes place at 11am from Nyon, Switzerland.

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