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Celtic to travel to Bosnia for opening Champions League qualifier

The Hoops were initially drawn to stage the first leg at Celtic Park.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon.
Celtic manager Neil Lennon.

Celtic have switched the venue of their opening Champions League clash and will now travel to face FK Sarajevo in Bosnia for next month’s first-leg clash.

The Hoops were initially drawn to stage the match at Celtic Park but with their opponents worried about the length of time it will take them to secure visas ahead of visiting Parkhead, the Scottish champions have now agreed to a switch.

Sarajevo also say the first leg will be played at the Asim Ferhatovic Hase Stadium on Tuesday, July 9, although the Hoops, who face a trip to Estonia or North Macedonia if they progress, have yet to confirm the dates.

In a statement posted on their website, the four-time Bosnian Premier League winners said: “The first match was to be played in Glasgow, but due to the administrative procedures required by the organisation of the trip to Scotland, a swap was agreed between the clubs.

“Thus, the first match will be played on July 9 at the Asim Ferhatovic Hase Stadium, and the return match will take place seven days later in Glasgow.”

Meanwhile, Celtic have also learned they will face Nomme Kalju of Estonia or Shkendija of North Macedonia if they get past Sarajevo following Wednesday’s second qualifying round draw in Nyon.

Should Neil Lennon’s side end up facing Shkendija, the Parkhead boss may well turn to winger Jonny Hayes for advice.

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Aberdeen faced Shkendija in the Europa League in 2015 (Jeff Holmes/PA)

The Irishman was part of the Aberdeen side which claimed a 1-1 Europa League draw in Tetovo in 2015 as Derek McInnes’ Dons edged out the Macedonians on away goals.

Kalju have a familiar face in their ranks too having recently signed former St Mirren winger Sander Puri. The 31-year-old made the first of three appearances for the Buddies against Lennon’s side back in 2013.

If Celtic fail to beat Sarajevo they have been handed a safety net from UEFA in the shape of a bye to the Europa League’s third qualifying round.

Meanwhile, Northern Irish champions Linfield have learned they will face Bate Borisov of Belarus or Polish side Piast Gliwice if they can sneak past Rosenborg of Norway in their opening Champions League qualifier.

Ireland’s Dundalk start their campaign against Latvians Riga, with the winner taking on either Qarabag of Azerbaijan or FK Partizani of Albania.

The New Saints of Wales will be rewarded with a clash against FC Copenhagen if they come through the first qualifying round unscathed.

The Oswestry side face the winners of the preliminary round, which sees Feronikeli of Kosovo take on Lincoln Red Imps of Gibraltar, while San Marino’s Tre Penne meet FC Santa Coloma of Andorra on June 25, with the two victors progressing to a play-off three days later that will decide who enters the competition proper.

PA

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