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Celtic can taste Europa League joy: Hinkel

Andreas Hinkel believes Celtic have as good a chance as any side of winning the inaugural Europa League this season.

The competition replaces the UEFA Cup in which the Germany defender had a measure of success, being a non-playing member of the Sevilla squad which won the tournament when they beat Spanish rivals Espanyol on penalties at Hampden in 2007.

After being knocked out of the Champions League qualifier by Arsenal, the Parkhead club dropped in to the newly-formatted second European competition where they were drawn in Group C with Hapoel Tel-Aviv, Hamburg and Aston Villa's conquerors Rapid Vienna.

Tony Mowbray's men begin the campaign with a trip to Israel on Thursday and Hinkel is confident that the Hoops are entering an arena where they are at least equals.

Speaking at Celtic's Lennoxtown training centre where he was helping to publicise ESPN's exclusive coverage of the game in Tel-Aviv on Thursday, Hinkel said: “There is no better team in the competition than Arsenal and playing them was the worst draw for us.

“I don't see a strong team like Arsenal in this competition. A lot of teams can win the Europa League and we can do it as well.

“The UEFA Cup — the competition before the Europa League — was different in recent years.

“In the Champions League it is only five or six teams that can win that and you know who they are before it starts. But the UEFA Cup was different. Last season it was Shakhtar, before that it was Zenit St Petersburg and Sevilla have also won the competition.

“There are very good teams in it but we can win against them. We didn't start in this competition so we have to take it game by game and small things decided games.

“When I won the UEFA Cup with Sevilla we played against Shakhtar Donetsk away and we were nearly out before our goalkeeper scored in the last minute and then we went on to win the competition.”

UEFA will use the tournament to experiment with one extra official behind each goal in a bid to assist the referee.

Belfast Telegraph


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