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Celtic facing difficult route to Europe's biggest stage

 

By Ronnie Esplin

Celtic assistant manager Chris Davies noted their ever-increasing Champions League challenge after they were put on course for an early rematch with Rosenborg.

The Scottish champions enter the competition one stage earlier than last year when they face Armenians Alashkert in the first qualifying round.

Victory would secure a contest against Rosenborg or Valur, but the Norwegian side have a much stronger pedigree than the Icelandic team, who have only won three European ties.

Celtic needed a James Forrest goal in the final quarter in Trondheim last year to progress from the third qualifying round after a goalless first leg, and the Norwegian side went on to beat Ajax to reach the Europa League group stages.

And Davies admitted the Hoops' task of making it a hat-trick of group stage campaigns was even more arduous.

"That does illustrate where it's at at the moment," he said.

"There is no doubt in anyone's minds - the players, the staff, the supporters - that it's a challenge to get into the Champions League. Everyone knows that.

"With Rosenborg, the positives I will take from that potential game is that we have beaten them before, and probably the hardest way because we had to play them away second.

"I don't think their style or players are going to have changed too much, so we know a lot about them.

"But from our point of view it's all about Alashkert, and that's been our mentality and approach all the way. That's the team to be thinking about."

Alashkert shocked St Johnstone in the Europa League three years ago but their only other victories have both come against Santa Coloma of Andorra.

Jack Wilshere has announced he is leaving Arsenal after 17 years with the club.

The 26-year old was unsure of his future, particularly with new boss Unai Emery coming in, and after discussions with the Spaniard, the Englishman felt he had no choice but to leave.

"I felt that I was ultimately left with little choice but to make the decision that I have due to purely footballing reasons," Wilshere wrote on Instagram.

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