Tuesday 20 March 2018

Celtic kick off Europa campaign with Ajax trip

Ajax director Edwin van der Sar (Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)
Ajax director Edwin van der Sar (Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)

Former European champions Ajax and Celtic, who both suffered the indignity of being knocked out of the Champions League qualifiers by underdogs, will meet in the Europa League after being drawn together in the group stage.

Four-times European champions Ajax, beaten by Rapid Vienna in the premier competition, and Celtic, who were ousted by Malmo, were placed in Group A alongside Turkey’s Fenerbahce and Norwegian side Molde.

“It almost feels like a Champions League group,” said former Netherlands goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, now an Ajax director, after his side were drawn in arguably the toughest of the 12 groups.

Celtic’s head of operations, Ronnie Hawthorn, said: “The stature of the Europa League is growing and the competition is getting more and more difficult. It’s good for fans who want to watch European competition, but it is a tough competition these days.”

Anderlecht will meet Tottenham Hotspur in a repeat of the 1984 final after they were drawn in Group J alongside Monaco and Qarabag, who play matches in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku – a five-and-a-half hour flight from London. Spurs won the UEFA Cup 31 years ago on penalties after both legs against Anderlecht ended 1-1.

Liverpool were drawn against Swiss side Sion, whom they beat 6-3 at Anfield in 1996, Bordeaux, and Rubin Kazan in Group B.

Napoli will face Club Bruges, Legia Warsaw and Midtjylland, conquerors of Southampton,  in Group D, while Borussia Dortmund must face PAOK, Krasnodar and Qabala in Group C.

Irish Independent

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