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Swedes stand between Celtic and the Champions League group stages

Today’s play-off round draw paired the Scottish title-holders with a Helsingborgs side who eliminated Poland’s Slask Wroclaw 6-1 on aggregate in the third qualifying round.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon.
Celtic manager Neil Lennon.
Image: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire/Press Association Images

CELTIC MUST BEAT Swedish champions Helsingborgs over two legs in order to return to the Champions League group stages for the first time since 2008.

Today’s play-off round draw paired the Scottish title-holders with a Helsingborgs side who eliminated Poland’s Slask Wroclaw 6-1 on aggregate in the third qualifying round.

Neil Lennon’s Celtic side beat HJK Helsinki 4-1 on aggregate in their tie, and were seeded for this stage of the competition. Henrik Larsson, one of Celtic’s all-time great strikers, had two spells at Helsingborgs either side of his seven-year stint at Celtic Park.

The play-off stage draw is divided into two, with domestic champions kept apart from clubs who qualified for the tournament without winning their national titles. That means Celtic avoided teams from Europe’s biggest leagues, including former European Cup finalists Borussia Moenchengladbach.

The Bundesliga side, who were beaten by Liverpool in the 1977 final, are hoping to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League for the first time but face a tough tie against Ukraine’s Dynamo Kyiv. Spanish club Malaga, who are enduring serious financial problems this summer, will face Greek outfit Panathinaikos, the third-qualifying round conquerors of Motherwell, while Braga meet Udinese and Lille of France take on FC Copenhagen, the Danes who reached the last 16 two seasons ago.

The 10 play-off round winners will join 22 automatic qualifiers in the group stage, which runs from 18-19 September to 4-5 December. This season’s final will be held at Wembley for the second time in three years.

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