Meet the sides standing between Celtic and co. and a European journey
The British clubs facing a qualification process to reach Europe’s top competitions now know their fate and while Celtic and West Ham have been handed favourable draws Aberdeen, Inverness and St Johnstone will have their work cut out.
On the back of the draw here’s a quick guide to the sides that stand in the way of a potentially lucrative European campaign for the English and Scottish representatives.
Celtic v FC Stjarnan
Most people have heard of the Icelandic side before but fortunately for the Bhoys this is largely down to their viral goal celebrations than their footballing prowess.
Bangor, Motherwell and Lech Poznan were all dispatched by the famous fisherman as Stjarnan reached the play-offs last year but 9-0 aggregate hammering at the hands of Inter Milan will give the Hoops plenty of hope.
Celtic may be 1,000/1 outsiders for Champions League glory but at 1/14 to beat Stjarnan and 2/1 to reach the group stages there are high hopes at Parkhead for a long campaign.
West Ham v FC Lusitanos
The Hammers’ reward for picking up the fair play slot is a trip to face the Andorran runners-up. The Irons last played in European completion back in 1999-2000 but with Lusitanos being founded in the same year Slaven Bilic’s side should be able to highlight the disparity between the two clubs on the pitch.
This sentiment is backed up by the betting, which has the Hammers down as 1/20 favourites to beat a side that plays to crowds of less than 1,500.
St Johnstone v FC Alashkert
The Saints face a 6,000-mile round trip into the unknown against a team that has only been in existence since 1999 and was out of action between 2000 and 2011!
Alashkert finished fourth in the eight-team Armenian Premier League last season, some 23 points behind leaders Pyunik and just a single point above fifth-placed Mika.
The revived club has never played in Europe before so while their fate is relatively unknown St Johnstone will be confident of progression.
Aberdeen v KF Shkendija
Shkendija were 10 points off the pace in the Macedonian top flight last term and while this will be their fourth attempt in Europe the Tetovo-based club is yet to win in continental competitions, falling at the first hurdle in 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2014-15.
They may boast two Brazilians in their current squad but these are hardly the Selecao and The Dons should progress with ease.
Inverness Caledonian Thistle v Astra
Possibly the toughest assignment for any of the Scottish teams, Astra are well known in Scottish circles after giving Celtic a scare in the Europa League proper last season.
The Bhoys could only manage a 1-1 draw in Romania and recorded a narrow 2-1 win at Celtic Park, showing that Caley will have to be at the very top of their game to beat the Black Devils.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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