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The Champions League group stage draw is always one of the football calendar’s most exciting off-field events. The outcome of that lottery will provide a scaffolding for some nights of genuine drama and matchups laced with subtle meaning and raw intent.
Scottish champions Celtic were just happy to be there.
It took a late goal at Parkhead to overturn a first-leg deficit suffered against Kazakh side Shakhter Karagandy, and at times, it looked like Celtic would be crashing out.
In a short while, they have gone from near-humiliation against anonymous minnows to one of history’s most menacing Champions League groups.
Barcelona, AC Milan and Ajax—you could argue that none of the three possess their former lustre—but they represent mammoth challenges, and several exceptional European nights, for Celtic.
The contrasting sentiments of fear and of exultation were caught in the quotes of several Celtic fans, as recorded by Scottish outlet the Daily Record.
William Brisbane from Ormskirk rather fatalistically said:
“What a disaster it is for Celtic drawing those teams in the Champions League. I’m betting they’ll not get four points and end up humiliated and showing up the rest of Scotland.”
Parkhead’s own Pat Thompson was far more optimistic: “It’s a thrilling draw with the promise of three fantastic teams to see. You can’t get better than that.”
The promise of a final in Lisbon will draw inevitable overarching narratives to the most glorious night in Celtic (and Scottish football’s) history, the club’s European Cup triumph against Internazionale in the Portuguese capital.
Robert McEwan of Mount Vernon pictured his ideal replication:
“I’d have liked to have got Manchester United but it’s a great draw anyway. Maybe we could back to Lisbon and play United in the Final but I can only dream.”