Despite the departure of manager Brendan Rodgers, Celtic completed a historic ‘Treble Treble’ triumph last season - a clean sweep of every single top-level domestic title in Scotland for the third season running.
Rodgers’ successor Neil Lennon - awarded the position in the dugout on a permanent basis following his stellar substitute steering of the good ship Celtic - now takes the Hoops into the first qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League.
Celtic fans of course like to remind that they were the first British team to lift the European Cup ( a season before Manchester United did so in 1968).
This year, a good strong initial showing to make up for the lack of Champions League football in the previous season is required. Celtic could only manage to reach the Third Qualifying Round before defeat to AEK Athens, settling for the consolation prize of Europa League football.
Their first opponents in this qualifying stage for the UCL are FK Sarajevo. One of the most recognised sides of the BH Telecom Premier League of Bosnia and Herzegovina (or more simply ‘Liga 12’, so named for the number of clubs participating) FK Sarajevo picked up their first title in four years last season, taking their number of total championships in the modern era to four.
Star men Mersudin Ahmetović and Benjamin Tartar, the latter in his very first season at the club, contributed a combined 26 goals between them.
The ‘Divovi’ (‘The Giants’) however have never reached the group stage of the Champions League in its, and indeed their, current incarnation (post-independence following the Bosnian War and dissolution of Yugoslavia). Interestingly however, their greatest success in the premier continental tournament almost coincided with Celtic’s, getting to the last round before the Quarter-Finals before being knocked out by eventual champions Manchester United.
FK Sarajevo’s biggest margin of victory in a UEFA tournament came 12 years ago, with an initial 6-0 win over Maltese football club Marsaxlokk, leading on to record a 9-1 aggregate victory in the First Qualifying Round.
For Celtic, this marks Lennon’s first time back in the Champions League since 2013/14 when the Hoops were in a group which included Barcelona, Ajax, and AC Milan.
This first leg of the FK Sarajevo-Celtic tie takes place at the Koševo City Stadium on July 9 before the return leg at Celtic Park on July 17. The second qualifying round will follow a week later.