Celtic eyes ending four-year wait for Champions League

Celtic eyes ending four-year wait for Champions League

PARIS - Agence France-Presse
Celtic eyes ending four-year wait for Champions League

Celtic’s Kris Commons (R) dribbles with the ball during his team’s game against Ross County. Celtic meets Helsingborgs tonight in a key Champions League playoff game. REUTERS photo

Celtic aims to reach the Champions League group stages for the first time in four years when it tackles Swedish side Helsingborgs tonight in a game where the legacy of former Hoops star Henrik Larsson looms large.

Larsson spent seven years with the Glasgow giants but started and finished his career, which includes brief spells with European heavyweights Manchester United and Barcelona, with the Swedish champion.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon said that despite his close ties with Larsson, he will not be seeking inside information ahead of their play-off first leg tie in Sweden tonight.

“Henrik will have a foot in both camps and I’m sure his head will be spinning with people ringing him, whether it be from Celtic’s side, Helsingborgs’ side or the press,” said Lennon. “I’m sure he will be getting inundated with requests for information and interviews. I am going to leave him to it. I wouldn’t want to put him in that position. We have plenty of people who will do plenty of homework.”

Prolific striker

Larsson hit 242 goals in 315 competitive appearances for Celtic during a career which featured two spells with Helsingborg - first from 1992-93 and then from 2006-09.

Celtic will host the return leg next week with the winner progressing to the group stages along with the nine other victors of the play-off ties.

Germany’s Borussia Mönchengladbach is looking to reach Europe’s elite club competition for the first time since 1978 but first must get the better of experienced European campaigners Dynamo Kiev.

Mönchengladbach’s fourth-place finish in last season’s Bundesliga has taken the team to within one step of making a group stage debut.

Dynamo reached the play-offs by beating Feyenoord 3-1 on aggregate in the third qualifying round.
In other ties, Danish league runner-up Copenhagen tackles Lille having lost three of its four previous home matches against the French.

Tomorrow, Hapoel Kiryat Shmona takes on Belarusian side BATE Borisov looking to follow in the footsteps of Maccabi Haifa, Maccabi Tel-Aviv and Hapoel Tel-Aviv and become the fourth Israeli club to compete in the group stages.

Limassol of Greek Cyprus faces Anderlecht with the Belgians hoping to end a run of four successive failures in qualifying rounds.

Spain’s Malaga, who was boosted with some big-name signings last year, tackles Panathinaikos in what could be an intriguing tie.

Panathinaikos coach Jesualdo Ferreira was hired as Malaga boss in June 2010 but lasted just five months before being replaced by Manuel Pellegrini.