Celtic will have to watch Boyce after Cliftonville Champions League draw

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Scotland’s faltering UEFA coefficient ranking means that title-winners Celtic have to enter the Champions League at the early stage of the second qualifying round, but it has brought about an interesting tie with Northern Irish champions Cliftonville.

Teams inside the top 15 of the association rankings are allocated at least two spots in the competition, which is good news for nations including Switzerland and Austria.

However, Scotland have dropped to 18th place, below Cyprus and Israel too, meaning that Celtic are the sole Scottish representatives and they will have to come through three qualifying rounds to participate in the group stages.

Up first is an idealistic clash for both sets of supporters against Cliftonville, with the Northern Irish outfit not automatically the pushovers that everyone may assume, especially with former Werder Bremen striker Liam Boyce in their ranks.

Meanwhile, Celtic have played two friendlies against Cliftonville at Solitude in the last four years and have won neither, albeit they have been majorly below-strength on each occasion.

Celtic, who reached the last 16 of the Champions League last season, will be expected to make light work of Cliftonville if they are to get anywhere near justifying odds of 300/1 to win the competition.

Elsewhere in the second qualifying round draw, two other sides that were involved in the group stages last season will be in action.

BATE Borisov, responsible for a victory over champions Bayern Munich in the group stages, open against Kazazh outfit Shakhter Karagandy, while Dinamo Zagreb take on Luxembourg minnows Fola Esch.

Other games worth keeping an eye on are those involving Paulo Sousa’s Maccabi Tel Aviv and former Manchester United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Molde, who square off with Gyor of Hungary and Sligo Rovers respectively.

A fascinating fact but one that is ultimately pointless is that Sligo are the only team to take part in the Champions League this year that is managed by an Englishman, with Ian Barraclough the man in charge.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Craig Kemp

Craig has written for Ladbrokes since the 2010 World Cup, having previously gained a Media & Sports Journalism degree and contributed to publications including the Racing Post. His main areas of interest are horse racing and UFC, but he is also an avid X Factor gambler and likes nothing more than indulging in a spot of Hip Hop Karaoke.