Hapoel Kiryat Shmona hopefully await Celtic in next round

For those Celtic supporters confident that their club will overcome HJK Helsinki in the Champions League Third Qualifying Round and who want to start planning their trip for the 4th Knockout Round stage, then the midweek results in the Second Qualifying round need to be factored into revised calculations of Celtic’s likely opponents.

Some unexpected 2nd Round results have meant that changes have had to be made to the analysis contained in the GGW post “Celtic’s prospects look good” of 19th July.

The major shock of the Round was that Luxembourg champions Dudelange knocked out the much more fancied Austrians, Red Bull backed Salzburg, thus removing one of the clubs set to be seeded alongside Celtic in both the 3rd and 4th Round draws. And in another upset, Israeli Champions Hapoel Kiryat Shmona  overcame an away leg 1-0 defeat to eliminate Zilina earmarked by GGW as the weakest of Celtic’s 5 likely 4th Round opponents. All the other games went as anticipated with Molde and Neftchi Baku confirming their first leg advanatages and all the other seeded teams qualifying. Although Dinamo Zagreb left it latest, needing a goal in the 8th minute of injury time to scrape into the 3rd Round.

The revised 3rd Round Draw has worked well to Celtic’s advantage with ties like Slask Wroclaw versus Helsinborg, BATE Borisov versus Debrecen, Cluj versus Liberac, AEL Limassol versus Partizan Belgrade, and Molde versus Basel meaning that some of the ten strongest team left in the last 20 are guaranteed to be eliminated. Hapoel are likely to eliminate Neftchi Baku but Dudelange will probably lose to Rangers’ old nemesis Maribor.

So the most likely outcome is that Celtic’s list of 5 potential opponents for the 4th Round draw will be two clubs, Partizan Belgrade and Helsingborg, both best avoided although still beatable; Cluj and Maribor as stuffy but beatable Eastern European obstacles; and by far the best option,  a trip to Israel to face Hapoel Kiryat Shmona.

But the Finns HJK Helsinki still have to be overcome first.

GGW will review the picture after the fisrt leg third Round ties on 31st July and 1st August by which time hopefully Celtic will have done enough at Celtic Park to make the trip to Helsinki more comfortable.