FK Suduva are this evenings opponents and not for the first time either. 16 years ago under Martin O’Neill Celtic met the Lithuanians in the UEFA Cup, having failed to reach the Champions League Group Stage.
Back then Suduva were playing only their 3rd and 4th ever European tie. Some 40 European games on, they have more experience under their belt.
To date they have never progressed in any European competition beyond the play-off round. Even then that only happened once and as recent as last season when they went out to Bulgarian side Ludogorets Razgrad in the same competition.
Like Celtic, they participated in the Champions League first and second Qualifying rounds this season having won their domestic title for the first time ever. After beating APOEL of Cyprus, they then lost to Red Star Belgrade and dropped into the Europa League third qualifying round.
Having beaten FK Spartaks Jurmala of Latvia they set up this tie with Celtic. Which brings us squarely to tonight’s match.
The first leg is in Lithuania and despite recent disappointments, Celtic need to focus and get this tie over the line. Brendan may have injuries and awaiting further comings and goings in the squad, but the objective is crystal clear.
Three players who didn’t make the trip were Jack Hendry, Odsonne Edouard and Dedryck Boyata. Hendry is a recent addition to the injury list whilst Edouard is still recovering from a knock.
The Boyata drama continues to take further twists. Having been brought back in from the cold by Brendan, the Northern Irishman declared Boyata was not ready for this game.
Many are speculating that the writing is on the wall for the Belgian following this recent outcome. For many fans, that is certainly what is desired myself included.
Now Celtic are likely to go with Kris Ajer and Jozo Simunovic at the heart of the defence. Marvin Compper travelled, but given his lack of games he is probably a risky venture for such a crucial game.
Some fans might be of the belief that Suduva will be a pushover. With the clouds still hovering over Celtic, nothing can be taken for granted.
Brendan must put out his strongest side and try to kill off the tie at the earliest possible chance. I’d rather not wait until the return leg.