Celtic and Rangers await European knockout stage draws

The draw for the Europa League and Conference League ties takes place on Monday.

Celtic and Rangers await European knockout stage draws SNS Group

Rangers and Celtic will learn the identity of their next European opponents when UEFA hold the draw for the knockout rounds on Monday lunchtime.

The Ibrox side will be competing in the Europa League after finishing second in their group behind Lyon, while Celtic drop into the new Conference League competition.

A new format means that Rangers’ reward for their second-place finish is a tie against a side that finished third in their Champions League group. This season, that collection of teams includes some stellar names.

Rangers could draw one of eight teams and the Scottish champions would likely be considered underdogs against all, though Giovanni van Bronckhorst will take confidence from the team’s performances in European competition over the last few seasons.

The most high-profile opponents would undoubtedly be Barcelona. The club’s troubles have been well-documented but now under the management of Barca legend Xavi, the Catalan side would pose a tough test but make for a glamour tie at Ibrox.

Borussia Dortmund would be another exciting but formidable prospect. Edged out of the Champions League based on their head-to-head record with Sporting Lisbon, Dortmund would bring the obvious threat of Erling Haaland and the powerhouse striker’s top-quality team-mates. Joint favourites to win the competition, the German side are another that would bring the spotlight to Glasgow but a tough team to beat.

Sevilla had an indifferent Champions League campaign, with just one win in six games, but they drop into a tournament they have excelled in over the years. The Spanish team have won the Europa League six times in the past 15 years and with the team sitting second in La Liga, they would be hoping to bring their domestic form into continental competition and make another run for the trophy.

Atalanta would bring a lot to a knockout tie and goals would be almost guaranteed. Second top scorers in Serie A, where they sit fourth, they had a rollercoaster ride in the Champions League group stage.

With the exception of a 1-0 home win over Young Boys, all of their remaining games saw the Italian side score and concede at least two goals. And as Lazio and Napoli are in the other side of the draw and teams from the same country can’t be drawn together, there’s a slightly higher chance of Rangers drawing Gian Piero Gasperini’s side.

RB Leipzig’s ambitions to progress in the Champions League were dented from the start when they were placed in a group with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain. Wins over Club Brugge and City, as well as a draw with PSG meant that they at least secured the consolation of a Europa League place and they showed enough in the elite competition to prove a formidable opponent for whoever is drawn to face them.

Being drawn against Porto would bring back memories ofRangers 2-0 win at Ibrox in the group stage in 2019, while a pairing with Zenit St Petersburg would bring a first meeting with the Russians since Rangers made a run to the final of the competition in 2008. Both teams had solid Champions League campaigns but were shut out of the latter stages by bigger sides.

The last of the possible opponents is Sheriff Tiraspol. The Moldovans made the Champions League group stage for the first time in their 24-year history and made their mark on the competition with a win over Shakhtar Donetsk in their opening game, followed by a stunning 2-1 win against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

Rangers wil lbe away from home for the first leg on February 17, with the second leg at Ibrox a week later.

Celtic will continue their European journey in the Europa Conference League.SNS Group

Celtic’s third-place finish behind Bayer Leverkusen and Real Betis means the Parkhead side settle for the consolation of a place in the new Europa Conference League. The competition is designed to offer something for clubs beyond the elite but there are still some big names lurking in the latter stages.

For this stage, Celtic will be up against a team that finished second in their Conference League and that makes for an interesting list of potential opponents.

Qarabag ended Aberdeen’s hopes in qualification and they have gone on to beat Omonia and Kairat Almaty to make the knockout stages.

Slavia Prague are well known to Scottish football fans but the team’s return to Glasgow for the first time since the racist abuse of Glen Kamara that led to Ondrej Kudela serving a 10-match ban would be a narrative that Celtic would rather avoid.

Randers would offer a short trip to Denmark and a tie against a side that is fifth in the Superligaen while Norwegian side Bodo/Glimt are also a possibility. Their 6-1 win over Jose Mourinho’s Roma in the group stage is one of the most eye-catching scores from European competition this season.

Maccabi Tel-Aviv finished second in their group behind LASK, who ended St Johnstone’s interest in qualifying, and the Austrians were the only side to beat Maccabi in qualifying.

PAOK, fourth in the Greek Leagueand runners-upto Copenhagen in their Conference League group, are another possibility and Partizan are also in the draw, with a trip to Belgrade to face the Serbian league leaders looking like one of the trickier ties.

The eight possible opponent for Celtic still isn’t confirmed. Tottenham Hotspur’s final group game against Rennes was postponed after a covid outbreak at the London club and UEFA have said it won’t be rescheduled. Vitesse are currently in second place in Group G and likely to be confirmed as progressing but will have to wait until UEFA’s disciplinary committee rubber stamp the final group standings.

Conference League play-off ties are scheduled to be played on February 17 and 24.

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