After crashing into the Europa League following a 4-3 defeat at home at the hands of CFR Cluj, Celtic have now learned the identity of their upcoming play-off opponents. The Scottish champions will face the Swedish champions, AIK Fotboll, who managed to get a 3-2 aggregate victory over FC Sheriff.
Celtic fans might still be stinging from the painful loss against CFR Cluj and subsequent elimination from the Champions League qualification phase but football does not wait for anybody, and now they have learned the identity of the team they will face in the Europe League play-off.
AIK Fotboll are the current holders of the Swedish League or Allsvenskan. They beat FC Sheriff Tiraspol 3-2 on aggregate in the previous round in order to book their place in the play-off to face the Hoops. AIK beat the Moldovan club 2-1 away last week and managed a 1-1 draw at home in the second leg to qualify.
Qualification for the Europa League will at this moment be a priority for Neil Lennon, after the recent debacle against Cluj ended up costing the club a place in the UEFA Champions League play-off as well as a large sum of money. Now a repeat of the same in the Europa League play-off will mean no European football for the season and further financial losses as well, a scenario the club will be keen to avoid at all costs.
AIK Fotboll will not be an easy team to go through. They won the Allsvenskan in 2018 and are currently at second in the table this season. The Swedish League though is at a much more advanced stage than most other European leagues with 19 games already played and as a result, the AIK players can be expected to be at a much higher fitness level.
They also play their home games in the 50,000-capacity, Friends Arena, which serves as Sweden’s national stadium and is the biggest in Scandinavia as well. One thing is for sure, the Hoops will not have an easy time away in front of a hostile AIK crowd.