Callum McGregor fears even Celtic’s seeding might not save them from landing a big gun in tomorrow’s Europa League draw.
Winners of a group that included Lazio, Cluj and Rennes, the Hoops’ efforts have earned them a place in the “favourable” half of the ballot for the round of 32 ties.
That means they cannot face the likes of Ajax, Manchester United, Arsenal or Sevilla.
With clubs from the same country kept apart until the last 16, an Old Firm Euro derby against Rangers is also a non-starter.
However, with eight teams dropping down from the Champions League groups at this stage, there remains the possibility of landing Bayer Leverkusen or a trip to Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk, a familiar name thanks to previous Champions League encounters.
“Knowing our luck, we will probably still draw a big gun!” said McGregor with a laugh.
“But, listen, we have come through the group really well.
“It was a tough one when it was drawn, and we’ve done exceptionally well to top it.
“So we can be feeling a bit better about ourselves going into the draw. We’ll fancy our chances against anyone we get.
“With our home performances – plus our win away to Lazio – teams will be starting to recognise Celtic as being a power again in Europe.
“We’ve been playing with that speed and that aggression.
“Maybe before we were trying to control the game a bit more.
“But we’re happy to go and hunt teams down now, and play a bit more on the counter-attack.
“Teams coming to Celtic Park will feel that atmosphere and feel that threat from us.”
Before European football is back on the agenda in February, Celtic have Premiership action to consider, with Hibernian the visitors to the east end of Glasgow this afternoon.
And if Hibs new boss Jack Ross will draw much of the attention, the game will be a return to familiar surroundings for Scott Allan, a midfielder who never quite made the grade at Celtic Park.
“I think everyone knows Scott has got ability and I think you can tell that when you watch him,” said McGregor.
“You see the pass he made at the weekend against Aberdeen, and obviously everyone has been buzzing off it.
“That is the type of player he is. He always likes to play that killer pass.
“Everyone here knew he had ability. It was trying to get that run of games and be consistent.
“Celtic is such a big club that to keep playing, you have to play well every single week.
“Scotty is the type of player who likes to play on the edge.
“When his passing comes off, it looks amazing. But if it doesn’t, it becomes a bit of a problem.
“Maybe that is why he never played quite so much here.
“But he is a top player and has that ability to unlock defences. Since the start of the season, he has played some unbelievable passes.
“He was a great guy when he was here too. It was just unfortunate that it never worked out.
“But he is a confident player and a confident guy, so I think he will fancy this one.
“He played well in the Easter Road game and in bits of the semi-final. He played the pass at Easter Road for their goal.
“We know he’s always a danger when he gets on the ball in those areas. So we know we’ve got to be switched on.
“When we do our homework on the game, he’s someone we’ll look to limit the amount of threat he can carry.”
Celtic played their part in managerial change at Easter Road this season, with their 5-2 victory against the Edinburgh side in the Betfred Cup semi-final quickly followed by the dismissal of Paul Heckingbottom.
The Yorkshireman’s loss was Jack Ross’s gain and as, McGregor acknowledged, the former Buddies boss is off to flyer with three wins from his first five games.
“They’ve picked up. Jack Ross is a top manager, and he’s made an impact,” said McGregor.
“He’s got the strikers playing together and scoring goals, so we know that they will be a big threat in the game.
“We’ll need to do our homework to make sure we know exactly what we’re going up against.
“They’ve always been a dangerous team with the ball. I don’t anticipate it will be any different when they come to Celtic Park.”
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