Celtic drawn to face Linfield or La Fiorita in Champions League qualifying

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Brendan Rodgers' Celtic will play Linfield or La Fiorita in the Champions League qualifiers
Brendan Rodgers' Celtic will play Linfield or La Fiorita in the Champions League qualifiers
19 June 2017 3:45PM

Scottish champions Celtic will play Northern Ireland's Linfield or La Fiorita of San Marino in the second qualifying round of the Champions League.

Brendan Rodgers' side, who reached the group stages last season, will begin their competitive season when the tie takes place over two legs on July 11 or 12 and 18 or 19.

Their opponents will become clear in the first week of July after Linfield and La Florita have played each other in the first qualifying round.

With Celtic drawn away for the first leg, the possibility of them playing in Belfast on July 12, a key date in the marching calendar, is potentially problematic for security services given past sectarian tensions.

It remains to be seen how any issues could be resolved.

Elsewhere the draw, made at the headquarters of European governing body UEFA in Nyon, Dundalk were handed a tie against Rosenborg of Norway.

Like Linfield, Welsh side The New Saints must also enter at the first qualifying round stage. They will play Europa of Gibraltar and will then face HNK Rijeka of Croatia if they get through.

New Celtic winger Jonny Hayes is looking forward to his club's ties but does not believe the extra spice involved in a potential showdown with Linfield will worry the Hoops too much.

The Republic of Ireland international said: "It's going to be a tough game in Europe. I've got a little bit of experience playing there with Aberdeen where we maybe took our foot off the gas and almost got punished.

"Every game is tough so regardless of who we play or where we play, they will look forward to playing Celtic and probably raise their game a little bit.

"I'm just happy I've got a chance to finally pull this top on as it could be my first competitive game. Regardless of the opposition I can't wait to get started. If the first competitive game is in Ireland, I'll look forward to it.

"I've never really thought about stuff off the park. Fans treat games differently from players. We have to approach every game the same."