Kind draw boosts Celtic hopes of Champions League participation
Celtic negotiated a tricky tie with HJK Helsinki on Wednesday to earn a crack at Champions League qualification, with Helsingborg the only remaining obstacle.
Neil Lennon’s men completed an impressive 2-0 victory in Finland in midweek, to advance to a play-off match via a 3-1 aggregate success.
And with no disrespect to Swedish outfit Helsingborg, the draw is a promising one for the Scottish champions, who aim to make the group stage for the first time since 2008.
It promises to be an emotional tie too, with former Swedish international Henrik Larsson viewed a true legend by supporters of both clubs.
Larsson scored 262 league goals in just 361 appearances combined for the two clubs, and is sure to be a focal point of the pre-match build-up.
Elsewhere, troubled Spanish outfit Malaga have been handed a tough game to add to their recent woes.
The La Liga side, who finished fourth last term, have descended into financial turmoil recently as a result of heavy investment in the hopes of Champions League qualification.
As such, big earners such as Santi Cazorla and Salomon Rondon have been offloaded, but with their hefty wages went two of the club’s most talented players too.
Therefore, a clash against Greek champions Panathanaikos doesn’t currently seem the most appealing prospect for the Andalucian side.
Another side facing an uphill struggle to qualify meanwhile, is German unit Borussia Moenchengladbach, who have never previously taken part in the competition.
In Ukrainians Dynamo Kiev, they take on a team that has reached the semi-finals of Europe’s elite tournament on three previous occasions.
Meanwhile, an intriguing encounter lies in prospect involving Italy’s Udinese, who were eliminated at this stage by Arsenal last season.
They face Portuguese outfit Braga, Europa League runners-up of 2011, in a contest that should live up to its billing as one of the picks of the draw.
And elsewhere, Turkish side Fenerbahce are afforded the chance to compete once again, following a ban last year with regards to a match-fixing scandal.
Spartak Moscow of Russia represent a far from straightforward proposition to negotiate however if they are to make the group stage.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.