Celtic Face To Trip To Belfast At Start Of Marching Season
Scottish champions Celtic face the possibility of a trip to Belfast in the Champions League Second Qualifying Round draw.
The Hoops face the winners of the First Qualifying Round tie between Irish Premiership champions Linfield and San Marino champions La Fiorita.
Celtic had a shock against one of European football’s minnows last season when they were beaten 1-0 at Gibraltar side Lincoln Red Imps before defeating them 3-0 in the second leg.
But any tie against Linfield brings security concerns. The game is scheduled to be played on 11 or 12 July. The latter date sees the start of the loyalist marching season in Northern Ireland. Linfield have a strong loyalist following.
However, Linfield must first get past La Fiorita. The champions of San Marino are something of an unknown quantity and have never played a British side in European competition. They are in their sixth successive season of European football – the second time they have played in the Champions League. However, they have won none of their ten matches scoring only one goal.
Welsh champions The New Saints face Europa. The Gibraltar side are making their debut in the Champions League having won their national championship for the first time in over 60 years. TNS are at home in the first leg. TNS will play the second leg away from Gibraltar owing to the unsuitability of their stadium. The winners play Croatian champions HJK Rijeka.
Irish champions Dundalk face a tough tie against Rosenborg Trondheim of Norway.
The draws for the first two qualifying rounds are as follows:
First Qualifying Round
Víkingur v Trepça ’89
Hibernians [Malta] v FCI Tallinn
Alashkert v FC Santa Coloma
The New Saints v Europa
Linfield v La Fiorita
Ties will be played on 27/28 June and on 4/5 July.
Second Qualifying Round
Apoel v F91 Dudelange
Zalgiris Vilnius v Ludogorets
Qarabag v Samtredia
Partizan Belgrade v Budocnost Podgorica
Hibernians [Malta] or FC Tallinn v FC Salzburg
FC Sheriff v FC Kukesi
FC Astana v Spartaks Jumala
FC BATE Borisov v Alashkert or Santa Coloma
MSK Zilina v FC Copenhagen
Hapoel Beer-Sheva v Budapest Honved
HNK Rikeja v The News Saints or Europa FC
Malmo v Vardar
HSK Zrinjski v NK Maribor
Dundalk v Rosenborg
FH Hafnarfjordur v Vikingur or Trepca 89
Linfield or La Fiorita v Celtic
Mariehamn v Legia Warsaw.
Ties to be played 11/12 July and 18/19 July.