Celtic Europa Conference League opponents revealed as Slavia Prague looms amid Tottenham’s anxious wait

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Their Europa League campaign ended with a bang after beating Real Betis.

And Celtic fans can still expect European action after Christmas in the Europa Conference League.

This may not have been the competition fans wanted to find themselves in at the start of the season.

But there are still a number of tough opponents Ange Postecoglou could face as UEFA’s new third-tier toy turns from wacky to wonderful.

Many thought the two greatest strikers Roma and Tottenham would clean house, but they’ve found this new beast to be ruthless if you don’t give it your full respect.

Jose Mourinho was beaten at Bodo while Antonio Conte’s side were maimed at Mura.

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Now that they’re here, it doesn’t hurt that Celtic are aiming for the moon and aiming to be the first champions.

But first, the play-offs to earn their place in the last 16 – here are the teams waiting.

Maccabi Tel Aviv

We knew this one – the Israeli team have been locked in their second place since the last matchday when they were beaten by Austrian side LASK.

A team that used to dominate its league, Tel Aviv have been overtaken lately by players like Hapeol Beersheba who are 10 points clear of the capital side.

Former Serbia national team coach Mladen Kristajic has been named new boss following the departure of Patrick van Leeuwen.

They would have liked to dominate a rather weak group also made up of Finns HJK Helsinki and Armenians Alashkert.

Partizan Belgrade

After Belgian side Ghent clinched first place, a triple threat between Partizan, Flora Tallinn and Anorthosis Famagusta developed below.

But it was the Serbs who came through and it would be a fight.

The capital team played second fiddle to Crvena zvezda – the artist formerly known as Red Star – for several years.

But at the halfway mark, Partizan are three points clear and on course to win their first Serbian Superliga title in half a decade.

This is mainly due to the goals of Cape Verdean striker Ricardo Gomes – his exceptional tally of 18 goals in 19 games makes him a real threat.

Bodo/Glimt




Jose Mourinho was at a loss for words when this rising Norwegian force beat his Roma side with a staggering 6-1 scoreline – then took a point away from them in Rome.

They had the edge over the Serie A side but a draw against Ukrainians Zorya Luhansk saw them fall to second on the final day.

Manager Kjetil Knutsen is surely only months away from a top job for the way he built his team from scratch and in their first ever group stage campaign they exceeded expectations .

Even farther north than old Rosenborg pals in Trondheim, hardened day travelers will face this.

hike

Leave your WhatsApp puns and phrases at the door, please.

The Danes lost 1-0 at AZ Alkmaar thanks to an 87th-minute winner and had to fear the worst.

But they were still able to finish second in Group D thanks to Cluj beating Jablonec and denying the Czechs a rematch with the team that knocked them out of the Europa League.

Freshly beaten by Galatasaray in the Europa League play-offs, they are usually mid-table and hardly ever keep clean sheets with a goal conceded in every group stage game.

Will be a far cry from Midtjylland’s caliber of Champions League qualifying – a much preferable tie.

Slavia Prague

Berlin or Prague? It was the Celtic fans’ choice and Slavia beat Eastsiders Union on matchday six to take a runners-up spot.

There are plenty of subplots as Slavia could return to Glasgow for the first time since Ondrej Kudela’s racist disgrace at Ibrox.

They may not be quite the same team they were when they beat Rangers in March and the fact that they started their group stage campaign in the Conference is proof of that, but they should always be a threat.

PAOK




Strolling to second place when they took on Gibraltar’s Lincoln Red Imps, the Thessaloniki side knew their fate would really be decided in Copenhagen and the Danes did their part seeing off Slovan Bratislava.

Supported by rabid and passionate fans, the City derby with Aris is so heated that overseas referees are often drafted in and Bobby Madden was the man of the occasion last month.

Speaking of rivalries, their derby with Olympiacos is also a big deal and they must have watched in anguish as their wealthier foes Athens enjoy near total dominance, although PAOK managed to break their hegemony by 2018-19.

Oh, and there’s the derby against AEK that once saw their owner walk into the park with a handgun tucked into his bootcuts.

So expect the unexpected if their name comes out of the hat with Celtic’s.

PAOK are regulars in the group stages of the Europa League, the last having reached the round of 16 in 2016-17 where they were stopped by Schalke.

Speed ​​or Spurs

Vitesse did their part by knocking out NS Mura, whose only win in the competition remains that clash against Conte’s Tottenham a fortnight ago.

But the plug was unplugged when the Londoners met Rennes due to a covid outbreak in their squad.

UEFA hesitated all morning but, in the end, the decision was taken to suspend the match.

It’s unclear what will happen to them – the incumbent European powers have set a deadline of December 31 for all group stage games to be played for that exact eventuality.

But Spurs don’t have a free midweek by January 1 and their one-sided announcement that the match was called off, before any official communication from UEFA, may have gone back to Nyon.

Keep an eye out for this one because there’s every chance one of the tournament favorites will go down the drain – and even if the game is played, they still have to win.

Qarabag

Time to give Scott Brown a bell – the former captain saw the Azeris up close in qualifying.

They blew up his new team Aberdeen but Celtic should be able to see them go.

It’s more the location as they could do without a getaway to the far east of the UEFA limits.



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