'Back door' could swing open for Celtic in Europe
The back door to the Europa League group stage may yet swing open for Celtic after Michel Platini offered hope that Sion -- who beat them in the tournament play-offs -- may be expelled next week for fielding ineligible players.
Speaking at the group stage draw in Monaco yesterday, the president of Uefa addressed the fact that Sion are still under a transfer ban imposed by Fifa after they breached rules over the signing of Egyptian international goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary three years ago.
Fifa, the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the Swiss supreme court all ruled subsequently that Sion have breached the transfer ban but the club is challenging the decision in a local court. "What is happening there is the rules have not been respected," said Platini.
"FC Sion has not respected the rules of the transfer ban -- they signed players and then played those players."
Uefa's general secretary, Gianni Infantino, stated that the case hearing was expected on Tuesday. While Celtic may yet find themselves involved in European competition until Christmas -- and in an attractive group that includes Atletico Madrid, Udinese and Rennes -- the performance of the Scottish clubs was criticised by Platini, who said: "I am very disappointed with Scottish football, which has such a great history in European football.
"They have great clubs and it is a shame none of them have qualified but these things are decided on the pitch. The Scottish league has to look at this situation seriously now."
The Old Firm return to league action tomorrow -- Celtic away to St Mirren and Rangers, who were also beaten in Europe during the week, at home to Aberdeen. "Nobody is more disappointed than me about the result in Switzerland," said Lennon. "But we have always said our priority has to be the championship and now it is up to us, beginning with our game against St Mirren, who have caused us difficulties when we have been there before."(© Daily Telegraph, London)
St Mirren v Celtic, Tomorrow, Live, Sky Sports 4, 12.45
Group B: FC Copenhagen, Standard Liege, Hannover, Vorskla Poltava.
Group C: PSV Eindhoven, Hapoel Tel-Aviv, Rapid Bucharest, Legia Warsaw.
Group D: Sporting Lisbon, Lazio, FC Zurich, FC Vaslui.
Group E: Dynamo Kiev, Besiktas, Stoke, Maccabi Tel-Aviv.
Group F: Paris St Germain, Athletic Bilbao, Salzburg, Slovan Bratislava.
Group G: AZ Alkmaar, Metalist Kharkiv, Austria Vienna, Malmo.
Group H: Braga, Club Brugge, Birmingham, Maribor.
Group I: Atletico Madrid, Udinese, Rennes, Sion. Group J: Schalke, Steaua Bucharest, Maccabi Haifa, AEK Larnaca.
Group K: FC Twente, Fulham, Odense, Wisla Krakow.
Group L: Anderlecht, AEK Athens, Lokomotiv Moscow, Sturm Graz.