Celtic draw Barcelona again in Champions League
Man City will face reigning champions Bayern Munich, Benitez to bring Napoli to Arsenal
Tony Watt celebrates scoring against Barcelona the night Celtic beat the Spanish giants in the Champions League group stages last November. The Scottish champions will have another crack at the Spaniards after drawing them again this season, in Group H of the Champions League. Photograph: Lynne Cameron/PA .
Bayern Munich will open the defence of their Champions League title against CSKA Moscow, Manchester City and Viktoria Plzen in Group D. Photograph: Bob Thomas/Popperfoto/Getty Images
Celtic’s reward for their play-off win over Shakhter Karagandy is a place in Group H alongside Barcelona, AC Milan and Ajax. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
The presence of Billy McNeil at the draw for the the Champions League group stages was a welcome reminder of Celtic’s greatest day in what used to be known as the European Cup but the slight frailty the now 73-year-old displayed up on the Grimaldi Forum stage underlined just how long ago that famous 1967 final victory over Inter in Lisbon was.
This year’s final will be back in the Portuguese capital but reaching it looks a more far-fetched dream than ever for the Scots after Neil Lennon’s side was drawn in a group that includes Barcelona, Milan (where they will play their first group game on September 18th) and Ajax: all of them former winners of the tournament too.
Indeed, their rivals for a place in the knockout stages this year have a remarkable 15 European titles between them and Celtic will start as distant outsiders to repeat the heroics of last season when group stage victories home and away over Spartak Moscow home and away, as well as their stunning defeat of Barcelona in Glasgow propelled them to the last 16 of the competition.
Celtic!— Gerard Piqué (@3gerardpique) August 29, 2013
The club’s supporters will relish the prospect of another crack on home turf at the star- studded Spanish champions on October 1st as well as the visits of famous names like Ajax and Milan but there doesn’t appear to be a Spartak this time on which to build a path to qualification.
“It’s the best and the worst draw we could have got,” Lennon acknowledged.
“In terms of glamour it doesn’t come any better than AC Milan, Barcelona and Ajax but in terms of football, it’s probably the most difficult group we could have got.
Ajax director Marc Overmars was similarly frank about the difficulties involved in coming up against the group’s two top seeds and said that for the Dutch champions, whose last success in the competition came back in 1995, the games against the Scots would be key.
“I think we have the same as we had last year,” he said, “a very difficult group . . . I think it’s the hardest of them all. But we have to live with it and they will be good matches for your young players.
“The matches against Celtic will be very important though. We will have to get points from them but we know how difficult it will be, especially in Scotland; there is no stadium where the fans make more noise.
“Celtic is famous for the atmosphere at their games and we all know about this in Holland.”