The Champions League play-off draw could have been kinder to both Celtic and Manchester United who face Malmo and Club Brugge respectively with the added obstacle of playing away second.
Having narrowly lost out to NK Maribor at this stage last season, Ronny Delia’s Bhoys will be wary of the Swedish champions who carry a far greater European pedigree than their Slovenian opponents of a year ago.
Furthermore, Malmo have the advantage of a being deep into their domestic season already and can draw confidence from hurdling three qualification stages a year ago to make the competition proper.
Still, Celtic are no strangers to negotiating tricky ties and have started their season in decent nick, winning their first four fixtures before earning a goaless draw at FK Qarabag to see themselves safely into the final play-off phase.
Meanwhile, even though the Red Devils will be fully expecting to beat the Belgian opposition in front of them, a season away from European competition is bound to breed some ring rustiness in Louis van Gaal’s squad, for his first crack at Champions League football as United boss.
Brugge certainly can’t be taken lightly. Although they have spent nearly a decade in the Champions League wilderness, the 13-time Belgian champions are stalwarts of the second-tier continental competition where they reached the Europa League quarter-finals only last season.
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