And so it begins….

Another summer, another Champions League Qualifier. The only difference this time is that it’s starting in August instead of September.

Mind you we’ve had about the same amount of football before this first qualification round tie as we would have under normal circumstances. The two postponed matches from the last week may have been of great annoyance, but a brief rest before entertaining KR Reykjavik may not be all bad.

Celtic last played the Icelandic side six years ago in the second round of the same competition. After a 1-0 win in Iceland, courtesy of a debut goal by Callum McGregor, Celtic sealed the tie at home with a 4-0 victory at Murrayfield.

The scorers at Celtic Park that day were Virgil van Dijk (2) and Teemu Pukki. Scott Brown, Nir Bitton, Leigh Griffiths and McGregor are the only survivors from those matches.

Only Gunnar Gunnarsson survives from those games. Team mate Oskar Hauksson was with the club but not included in either of the match day squads.

This will be the first time the Icelandic team have played in Celtic Park and sadly they will be unable to experience a proper European occasion. However, Celtic’s motivation must be high given that they have been starved of football for over a week now.

These knock-out ties are high risk but Celtic’s goal is clear. Reaching the group stages of the Champions League is important for the club.

It isn’t just the income, though that is crucial. This is also about maintaining a presence in Europe and building upon the good work from the previous season.

Last season saw Celtic finish top of their Europa League group. It more than made up for crashing out of the Champions League in the qualifiers.

Even though we have 10IAR as a top priority we must keep on pushing in Europe. We crave these occasions and even without the fans’ presence they are special nights.

KR Reykjavik’s season was due to begin in April but delayed until June due to coronavirus. Either way, they’ve had a number of competitive matches under their belt so far.

Even still, they haven’t won any of their last three. Including Friday’s defeat at home.

Realistically, Celtic should haven’t any problems this evening. The players should be hungry not just to win but notch up a decent scoreline too.

It’ll be good to have the Bhoys back in action tonight. We might even get first sight of our new Bhoy, Albian Ajeti!

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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