Finnish test for Celtic in UCL

BY foxsports • July 20, 2012

Scottish champions Celtic will play either HJK Helsinki or KR Reykjavik in the third qualifying round of the Champions League, while Motherwell face Greek side Panathinaikos.

Celtic were in the Champions section of the draw and will be at home in the first leg with Finnish title-holders HJK very likely to be their opponents after they won the first leg of their second qualifying round clash with KR 7-0 earlier this week.

Motherwell were unseeded in the draw and will face a stiff test against 20-time Greek champions Panathinaikos, with the first leg taking place at Fir Park.

The first legs will be played across July 31 and August 1, with the return legs contested a week later.

Winners advance to a playoff round, which will decide who joins 22 pre-qualified teams in the group stage.

Celtic boss Neil Lennon and captain Scott Brown have already targeted reaching the group stages of the tournament with others suggesting it is a necessity given the lack of Old Firm matches for the foreseeable future.

Motherwell's Champions League opportunity stemmed from the demise of oldco Rangers and the rejection of Charles Green's newco club into the SPL but Stuart McCall's side will go into their clash as underdogs.

However Celtic should also be wary of their likely opponents with HJK Helsinki taking apart Icelandic champions KR with ease on Tuesday evening.

The Hoops faced Helsinki in the first round of the UEFA Cup in 2000, with a goal in extra-time from Chris Sutton earning Martin O'Neill's side a 3-2 aggregate win.

Turkish club Fenerbahce will return to the Champions League against FC Vaslui of Romania in the third qualifying round after serving a one-year exile during a match-fixing investigation.

Feyenoord, the 1970 European Cup winner, faces Dynamo Kiev.

FC Copenhagen will host Club Bruges first, and Belgian champion Anderlecht is home first against either Shamrock Rovers or Ekranas.

Champions League third qualifying round:

Fenerbahce (Turkey) vs. FC Vaslui (Romania)

Motherwell (Scotland) vs. Panathinaikos (Greece)

FC Copenhagen (Denmark) vs. Club Bruges (Belgium)

Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine) vs. Feyenoord (Netherlands)

Champions Route:

NK Maribor (Slovenia) or FK Zeljeznicar (Bosnia-Herzegovina) vs. F91 Dudelange (Luxembourg) or FC Salzburg (Austria)

BATE Borisov (Belarus) or Vardar (Macedonia) vs. KS Skenderbeu (Albania) or Debreceni (Hungary)

CFR Cluj (Romania) vs. Slovan Liberec (Czech Republic) or Shakhter Karagandy (Kazakhtan)

Anderlecht (Belgium) vs. Shamrock Rovers (Ireland) or FK Ekranas (Lithuania)

Buducnost Podgorica (Montenegro) or Slask Wroclaw (Poland) vs. New Saints (Wales) or Helsingborgs (Sweden)

Ulisses FC (Armenia) or FC Sheriff (Moldava) vs. Ludogorets Razgrad (Bulgaria) or Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia)

Celtic (Scotland) vs. HJK Helsinki (Finland) or KR Reykjavik (Iceland)

Molde FK (Norway) or FK Ventspils (Latvia) vs. Flora Tallinn (Estonia) or FC Basel (Switzerland)

MSK Zilina (Slovakia) or Hapoel Kiryat Shmona (Israel) vs. Neftci (Azerbaijan) or Zestafoni (Georgia)

AEL Limassol (Cyprus) or Linfield (Northern Ireland) vs. Valletta (Malta) or Partizan (Serbia)