Back in training with one eye on the Champions League draw

The Hoops reassembled yesterday for their first day of pre-season training minus their World Cup contingent of Cristian Gamboa, Mikael Lustig, Dedryck Boyata and Tom Rogic. It doesn’t seem like much of a break, but nevertheless the hard work begins now.

We learned in advance of Celtic’s possible Champions League opponents for the First Qualifying Round. The draw takes place today at noon and will be one of the following candidates:

Spartak Trnava (Slovakia)
Valletta (Malta)
Alashkert (Armenia)
Sutjeska Niksic (Montenegro)
Spartaks Jurmala (Latvia)
Flora Tallinn (Estonia)

None of these are easy trips for Celtic. Aside from the travelling and relative unknown quantity, a couple of these clubs are also in the midst of their football season.

Take Flora Tallinn for instance. Their season began in March and are already eighteen games into the current domestic campaign.

Similarly, the Latvian Virsliga started in March. So Spartaks Jurmala are now eleven matches into their new season.

In terms of preparations they’re ahead of everyone else. At least on a match fitness level.

As for the rest of potential opponents, well they’re pretty much in line with the majority of Europe as far as their seasons go. What we all have in common though is that none of our national sides are playing at the World Cup.

I’m also going to hazard a guess and say that none of these potential opponents have any players featuring in the World Cup. Whilst other clubs in this First Round of qualifying will have players featuring in Russia just like Celtic.

Rogic, Gamboa, Lustig and now Boyata have all now featured in the opening games for their countries and wish them all the best with the rest of the tournament – hopefully injury free! We have plenty of options without our international players on duty though just as long as they are back for the tougher stages of the Champions League qualification.

Rumours continue to grow about departure from the club this summer. None of which have been confirmed, but there will be departures we can be sure of that.

For now, all eyes are on today’s draw in Nyon.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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