After Qarabagging a play-off spot who could be next for Celtic?
Ronny Deila had nothing but praise for his Celtic charges as they battled to a goalless draw against FK Qarabag on Wednesday night.
The result meant the Bhoys went through on aggregate to move just one round away from the Champions League group stages.
“It was a very good team effort. We have to understand that we met a very good team. Last year they beat Dnipro, who went to the final of the Europa League…We defended properly and deserved, in the end, to get through,” the Norwegian said after the match.
So who next for the Glasgow outfit? We give you the lowdown on the five teams that could potentially stand in their way of the competition proper.
Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel)
The Israeli champions are real mainstays in European competitions, though more often than not in the Europa League.
They last reached the group stage of the Champions League in 2005 where they had the unfortunate luck of being drawn with Bayern Munich, Juventus and Ajax.
Celtic will sense goals if Slavisa Jokanovic’s men are drawn as their opponents, their two-nil victory against Viktoria Plzen on Wednesday was their first clean sheet in 10 competitive fixtures.
Partizan Belgrade (Serbia)
Hoops fans will probably have blocked their last meeting with Partizan out of their mind. Back in 1989, after coming in to their Cup Winners’ Cup first round, second leg with just a goal deficit, you’d have thought five goals would be enough to see the Scots through.
It would have done were it not for their then-Yugoslavian foes bagging four and going through on away goals.
Much has changed since, but with seven wins in their last 10 European qualification fixtures, Partizan could be a tough nut to crack.
A familiar face could greet Celtic should they draw Malmo. Jo Inge Berget spent six months on loan at Celtic Park last term, netting twice on his home debut. Since returning to Scandinavia he has continued to display his goalscoring prowess with nine goals in 19 appearances.
The Swedes came back from two-nil down on aggregate to see off Salzburg in the last round, so are clearly not ones to back down from a fight.
Deila will be hopeful of securing a home victory against Malmo though, given the fact that they’ve lost six of their last seven European away fixtures.
Skenderbeu Korce (Albania)
While the Albanians may look a very weak outfit on paper, they are capable of upsetting the odds in Europe.
They disposed of APOEL Nicosia in 2011 without conceding a goal over two legs, while only went out on away goals against BATE Borisov last season.
In fact they have lost just two of their last 10 matches in Champions League qualifying in 90 minutes, so could well cause Celtic more problems than first expected.
A trip to Kazakhstan can be an arduous journey, just ask Aberdeen fans. Astana are currently battling it out for the Kazakh title with the Dons’ Europa League foes Kairat, so conclusions could be drawn from the performance of Celtic’s fellow Scots on Thursday.
They are the lowest rated of their five potential opponents, sat at 283 in UEFA’s club rankings and would surely face an uphill battle if the Glasgow outfit came to town.
Home form that sees them unbeaten in over a year would need to be their saviour.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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