The Champions League first qualifying round 2019-20 will kick off on Tuesday night around Europe. Scottish Premiership champions Celtic will travel to Bosnia to play FK Saravejo in their first leg Champions League first qualifying round match.
The Hoops reached the third qualifying round last season but failed to overcome Greece’s AEK Athens. They moved into the Europa League where Celtic eventually reached the round of 32.
Now, manager Neil Lennon hopes to replicate what he achieved in 2012-13 and 2013-14 when he led Celtic to the Champions League round of 16 and group stage, respectively.
Are FK Sarajevo capable of an upset?
It would be foolish to ignore the potential upset that FK Sarajevo offer on Tuesday night. The club is coming off of a domestic double.
Although the Premier League BH isn’t up to the standards of the Scottish Premiership, FK Sarajevo won’t go quietly at home.
Manager Husref Musemic is familiar with Scottish football. He played for Hearts on loan in 1990 and has been a fan of football in Scotland since then.
Like Celtic, FK Sarajevo are yet to start their domestic season. The club will begin their Premier League BH title defence on July 21st.
FK Sarajevo’s season will start just days after their second leg Champions League first qualifying round match at Parkhead.
Who is in Celtic’s Champions League first qualifying round squad?
New Celtic players Boli Bolingoli and Christopher Jullien could start in Lennon’s XI. The Hoops may also see the return of midfielder Eboue Kouassi. The combative midfielder was signed to become the anchor of Celtic’s midfield, however, a knee injury has kept Kouassi out of action.
Arsenal transfer target Kieran Tierney has been included in Celtic’s team despite strong interest from south of the border. Tierney is also coming off of a hernia injury. Meanwhile, exciting Irish midfielder Luca Connell looks likely to miss the first leg through injury.
One player who may not feature for Celtic against FK Sarajevo is midfielder Olivier Ntcham. The Frenchman has claimed he “isn’t tested enough” by the Scottish Premiership.
Ntcham is in the Celtic squad but could be left on the bench after his recent comments.
Celtic fans haven’t been too kind to Ntcham with the news of his desire to leave Celtic. Twitter user @Strawsforeyes let his feelings known with a recent tweet mocking Ntcham.
‘Scottish football is too easy. So easy, in fact, that I decided to be absolutely rank rotten for 9 months as a form of protest.’ – Olivier Ntcham, July 2019
— Murphy (@strawsforeyes) July 6, 2019
Ntcham arrived from Manchester City in 2017 with a lot of promise. He played for Italy’s Genoa on loan prior to the move. In 42 Premiership matches for Celtic, Ntcham has recorded eight goals and just two assists. His poor assist numbers have been especially lacklustre for an attacking midfielder.
Can Neil Lennon lead Celtic to the Champions League proper?
Celtic last reached the Champions League group stage in 2016-17 and 2017-18 under former manager Brendan Rodgers. The Hoops were unable to qualify for the knockout rounds in both seasons.
Lennon has experience leading Celtic to the group stage of the competition. He will need to guide the team through eight matches in the qualifying and playoff rounds.
Last season, Celtic reached third qualifying round before they were knockout by AEK Athens.