Celtic could face Belfast battle in Champions League


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Celtic could be set for a mouthwatering battle against Northern Irish side Linfield in next month’s Champions League qualifiers.

The Hoops have been drawn to play Linfield or La Fiorita of San Marino in the second qualifying round of Europe’s most prestigious competition.

Linfield, a club with close ties to Celtic’s Glasgow neighbours Rangers, would present a high-profile trip to his homeland for Bhoys boss Brendan Rodgers.

The former Liverpool manager helped Celtic reach the group stage of the Champions League last season, but they did not qualify for the knockout phase after failing to win any of their six matches against Barcelona, Manchester City and Borussia Monchengladbach.

The first leg of the second qualifying round tie will be played on July 11 or 12, with the second leg taking place on July 18 or 19.

Celtic will have home advantage in Glasgow for the second game.

Rodgers led Celtic to domestic bliss last season, winning all three domestic trophies in Scotland without tasting defeat in any of their 47 games.

The Hoops’ first-team squad returned for pre-season training on Monday and will play their first friendly against Austrian side BW Linz on June 28.

Rodgers and his side will then face Rapid Vienna (July 1), Slavia Prague (July 4) and Shamrock Rovers (July 8) as they seek to get into top gear for what will prove to be some vital games in the Champions League qualifiers.

The club makes no secret of the need to secure a place at Europe’s top table in the lucrative group stage in order for Rodgers to continue his progress.

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