Celtic’s European campaign will open at Celtic Park when they face the Premier League Champions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, FK Sarajevo. It is the first time the two clubs have met or indeed a team from that country.
Pre-season training got under way at Lennoxtown on Monday with three weeks until the European campaign begins in Glasgow. Some of Celtic’s first team have yet to return to training with some still on international duty or having more time off following international duty.
Still, it is an early start once again for the Celtic players. There really isn’t much in the way of rest these days.
Next week the squad will head out to their summer training camp in Austria and Switzerland. They’ll play SC Pinkafeld, Wiener SC and FC St Gallen as part of their pre-season schedule.
There might even be time to squeeze in one more warm-up game before they welcome FK Sarajevo to Celtic Park. By that time Neil Lennon should have most of his players fit and available.
Should Celtic make it past Sarajevo they will face either Nõmme Kalju of Estonia or KF Shkëndija of Macedonia. With the greatest of respect, neither of those team names immediately fill you with fear, but in Europe you can’t underestimate any team these days.
FK Sarajevo are a well backed club in terms of finance. Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan has an substantial investment, both clubs share an affiliation and further investment came from a Vietnamese businessman earlier this year who is also the club’s owner.
Last season they beat Armenian side Banants in the first qualifying round if the Europa League 5-1 on aggregate. In the second round earned a 2-2 draw in Italy against Atalanta only to lose the home leg 0-8.
As for KF Shkëndija, they went a little further in Europe last season. They beat The New Saints and Sheriff Tiraspol in the first and second qualifying rounds of the Champions League only to lose to Red Bull Salzburg in the third qualifying round.
That meant they parachuted into the Play Off Round of Europa League at the same time as Celtic. There they faced Rosenborg, but lost out to the Norwegians.
The two teams that conquered them would go on to face Celtic in the Europa League group stages. Celtic had disposed of Rosenborg in the second round of the Champions League that earlier in the summer.
Nõmme Kalju have never made it past the third qualifying round of the Champions or Europa Leagues. Last season they went out in the first round of the Europa League to Stjarnan from Iceland, another team Celtic have faced in recent years.
This just the second venture into the Champions League for the Estonian side. The last coming in the 2013-2014 season.
It’s worth noting that they are midway through their footballing calendar right now. Whilst they may not be considered a major threat, their fitness is most likely at it’s peak.
So those are the teams that stand in Celtic’s way right now. However far Celtic go and whichever team(s) they face, there is some travel to the furthest reaches of the continent.
We’ve had to travel further and if we progress we may have to travel further once again. Right now the focus is purely on pre-season training, some warm up matches and preparing for the arrival of FK Sarajevo in Glasgow in three weeks time.