By Martin Macdonald
|CELTIC DRAW HELSINGBORGS IN PLAY-OFF
Celtic have drawn Swedish side Helsingborgs in the final Champions League qualifying round, as they continue their quest to make the group stage for the first time in four years.
The Hoops made their way into the draw on Friday thanks to a professional 2-0 victory over HJK Helsinki in the previous qualifying round, with goals from Joe Ledley and Giorgios Samaras sealing a 4-1 aggregate scoreline against the Finnish side.
Thanks to their status as Scottish Premier League Champions, Celtic were seeded for the draw last week, and have found themselves in a relatively favourable fixture as they attempt to feature in the group stage.
The Glasgow giants have never faced a Swedish side in a competitive European fixture before, and will make their first trip to the nation for the first leg on August 21, with the reverse match taking place at Celtic Park on August 29.
Despite having never faced each other before, they will likely know a fair amount about each other through the success of Champions League winner Henrik Larsson, who has achieved legendary status with both clubs. The former Celt spoke to journalists recently about his thoughts on the match, and of course his split allegiances. He said:
“I have a great history with both clubs. Without Helsingborgs, I would never have come out in Europe to become a professional footballer. And, without Celtic, I would never have been the player that I was.
“My feelings are a little mixed on the situation. I just hope the best team over the two games wins and it is a good game for the fans.”
|LOS BLANCOS TOO STRONG FOR HOOPS
Celtic completed their pre-season preparations for the forthcoming campaign with a 2-0 defeat against a star-studded Real Madrid side at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Saturday evening.
Jose Callejon and Karim Benzema were the names on the scoresheet as Madrid sealed a relatively comfortable win in the United States. However, Neil Lennon’s side should be proud as they showed plenty of guile and ultimately put in a commendable performance against the Spanish champions.
It was the Scottish side who started the match with intensity, and gave Los Blancos an early scare when Adam Matthews went on a marauding run down the right wing and fizzed a wicked cross into the centre of the box, only for Sergio Ramos to scramble away.
However, Jose Mourinho’s men began to dominate possession and opened the scoring in the 22nd minute when Callejon took advantage of some slack Celtic defending to drift in and tap home from a yard after Luksaz Zaluska parried Gonzalo Higuain’s strike.
Real Madrid doubled their tally in simple fashion 25 minutes from time when Karim Benzema squeezed a shot into the near post past Zaluska to make it 2-0.
The match then turned sour after a nasty clash of heads between Dylan McGeouch and Nuri Sahin saw the Celtic youngster knocked unconscious. There was no malicious intent in the challenge but the match was stopped for over five minutes with the Hoops players looking worried about their team mate. Thankfully McGeouch came around and looked more coherent as he left the pitch on a stretcher. It was later discovered that he had suffered a broken jaw.
Neil Lennon’s side now turn their attention to competitive fixtures with Ross County and a trip to Helsingborgs on the horizon.
|THE WEEKEND: TRIP TO THE HIGHLANDS
Celtic’s next match sees Neil Lennon’s side travel to Dingwall to face new promoted Ross County on Saturday afternoon in the Scottish Premier League.
The Highland side won the Scottish First Division last season by a massive 24 points over nearest rivals Dundee so they will be heading into the new campaign full of confidence.
Derek Adams’ men have made a steady start so far with two scoreless draws against Aberdeen and Motherwell, results which see them extend their unbeaten run to a very impressive 12 months.
Celtic’s only SPL match of the season so far saw a Kris Commons goal seal a narrow victory over Aberdeen.