Last week, before the home leg against Hapoel Beer Sheva, I wrote an article stating that Europa League qualification wouldn’t be a disaster for Celtic. That didn’t make watching the return leg any easier, and it’s only now as we await the draw for the Group Stages I’ve realised just how much we have missed these nights – although a strange part of me is glad we never witnessed Bayern or Barca vs Ronny Deila.
The draw awaits. Most fans are after the immediate glamour ties, and while I certainly wouldn’t complain if we were drawn against Real, Dortmund and Spurs (Celtic vs Dortmund would be a wonderful occasion home and away), I am hoping for a kinder draw. Here’s my take on the kindest and most diffciult draws the Bhoys could face, although it goes without saying that there will not be a single easy game in this competition. As we all know Celtic will be drawn with a team from each of the three pots above ourselves in Pot 4.
Best draw for progression – Club Brugge
Brugge have not participated in the Group Stages for over ten years and would represent a fairly evenly matched contest against the Hoops. In 2015 they were defeated 7-1 on aggregate by a very average Manchester United led by Louis Van Gaal. Whilst every team in the CL can be dangerous, Brugge look the easiest team in Pot 3 to pick up some points against.
Glamour Tie/Nightmare Draw – Tottenham Hotspur
We’d all love to see Spurs at Paradise but in terms of us potentially getting out of our group, it’d be best to avoid Kane, Lamela and Delle Ali for now.
Best draw for progression – Napoli
I laughed when making my selection from this pot because each of the teams are excellent and will be so tough to take points from. There are sides in Pot 2 that are arguably stronger than those in Pot 1.
However, I chose Napoli purely down to their poor start this season, coupled with their participation in the Europa League rather than Champions League last year (where they defeated Club Brugge 5-0, highlighting the gulf between Pots 3 and 4).
Bayer Leverkusen and maybe even Arsenal would be kind draws given the stature of pot 2.
Glamour Tie/Nightmare Draw – Man City, Atletico Madrid, Dortmund
Take your pick. Dortmund would represent the most attractive draw (and best away adventure)
Atletico, finalists in two of the last three years, would be a very tough assignment, but for me the team to avoid are Guardiola’s Manchester City. Aguero vs Janko. Lord save us all.
Best draw for progression – Leicester City
Easy one, this. Although it was a pre-season game we have shown that we can at least compete physically with Leicester, and with a couple of additions I think we can take points from them. CSKA would also be kind but I’ve chosen Leicester due to the small travel distance. We’ve also nothing to fear from Benfica.
Glamour Tie/Nightmare Draw – Real Madrid
Please let it be Real – the fans want it. Bring them on at Parkhead. Not ideal in terms of progression but just imagine the Champions League theme being played whilst Madrid and Celtic walk out on to the pitch. Shivers.
Having said all this, we will almost certainly draw Barcelona.
Ideal draw for Progression:
Leicester City, Napoli, Club Brugge, CELTIC
Real Madrid, Man City, Basel*, CELTIC
*two clubs from the same country cannot face off in the group stage
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