Champions League Last Sixteen Draw: Dream and Nightmare Scenarios for Celtic
Celtic defied the odds to finish second in their group behind Barcelona, qualifying for the last sixteen where they'll face one of seven group winners.
They'll go into any tie as underdogs, but some opponents will seem at least a bit more manageable than others. Others will seem downright impossible.
Let's take a look at who Celtic will be hoping for and who they'll be desperate to avoid when the draw is made on December 20. We'll rate their chances against each one.
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Despite finishing first in a group containing Milan and Zenit St. Petersburg, Malaga are arguably the weakest of Celtic's potential last sixteen opponents. They're the side most Hoops fans would like to see their side drawn against.
Never having competed in the Champions League before, the Spanish side lack the experience at this level which can so often be crucial in how the matches turn out.
Although Celtic would still be the underdog in this matchup, they would believe themselves capable of progressing.
Chances of going through: 35%
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The majority of Celtic fans also wouldn't be particularly downbeat about facing Schalke, the third place finishers in the Bundesliga last season.
Schalke impressed in the group stages, securing qualification before the final matchday and clinching the top spot ahead of Arsenal despite only managing a draw in their final group match against Montpellier.
They have a strong side too, filled with international-class players and one of the most lethal finishers in Europe in Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
Yet in comparison to other possible opponents, Schalke seem like a much more manageable proposition. Although a quality side, they're not at quite the same level as some of the others. They would be far from the worst group winner to be drawn against.
Celtic's chances of going through: 30%
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Okay, so PSG have Zlatan Ibrahimovic. They have Ezequiel Lavezzi. They have Javier Pastore. They have a plethora of world-class players and may even look to strengthen again before the last sixteen ties are played. (We know already that January will see the arrival of Brazilian sensation Lucas Moura, providing them with yet more options on attack.)
Celtic would surely find Paris Saint-Germain to be a daunting prospect. But bear in mind that while their squad on paper is easily among the best in Europe, they've had problems with cohesion and consistency through the first half of the season. They're far from the finished article.
PSG may also find that their lack of Champions League experience as a team could cost them, even if many of the individuals have been there before.
Celtic's chances of going through: 20%
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This is where things start to look increasingly difficult for Celtic.
Manchester United are among the favourites to win the competition. They have quality players throughout the side and they have Rooney and van Persie up front—one of the most lethal strikeforces in Europe.
Are there any positives for Celtic, then?
In short, yes.
Man United failed to make it past the group stages last season, something which was practically unheard of. Although they managed it this time around, they qualified from about as straightforward a group as they could have been given.
What's more, United's defence has been rather porous this season, often conceding several goals a game and regularly looking shaky.
Finally, Celtic tend to fare better on their travels when they only have to journey a few hundred miles over the border. They cope better against British sides who play a style they're more familiar with. And remember, it wasn't so long ago that they beat Man United at Parkhead.
Tough. But not impossible.
Celtic's chances of going through: 15%
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Borussia Dortmund have been the undisputed stars of the Champions League this autumn, emerging not just top but unbeaten from a 'group of death', from which many pundits had given them very little chance of progressing.
The German champions beat Real Madrid and Manchester City at home. While a victory over City doesn't carry quite the same weight given how they performed this season, the fact remains that Dortmund have the players, and more importantly the team, to beat anyone in European football.
Robert Lewandowski, Mario Gotze, Marco Reus...even with the advantage of playing at Parkhead, Celtic would find it incredibly difficult to make it past Dortmund.
Celtic's chances of going through: 10%
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Juventus are back in the Champions League after a lengthy absence, but looking at their performances and results it's as though they were never away.
A group containing Shakhtar Donetsk and the European Champions Chelsea looked a stern test for Juve on their Champions League return. But they ended up group winners, thanks to the qualities that saw them unbeaten in Serie A last season and which have always served them well—excellent defensive organisation, consistency and the ability to snatch draws and even victories when things aren't going well.
Celtic would need to hope that Juventus have forgotten during their years in the wilderness what it takes to win a Champions League knockout tie.
Celtic's chances of going through: 5%
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Last year's losing finalists Bayern Munich are back this year, looking to redeem themselves after their disappointing penalty shootout defeat to Chelsea in May.
Jupp Heynckes strengthened the squad during the summer, most notably by bringing in Mario Mandzukic from Wolfsburg and the expensive Javi Martinez from Athletic Bilbao but also by holding on to key players despite interest from clubs across Europe, keeping the rest of his side intact.
Bayern are another side who don't seem to have to play particularly well to get results. Their run to the final last year, though impressive, featured some mediocre displays along the way. But when they do turn it on, they can be irresistible.
Injuries could be their only downfall. But if injury-prone players like Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry stay fit long enough to avoid missing crucial ties, it's hard to see anyone getting in their way. Let alone Celtic.
Celtic's chances of going through: 5%