UEFA Champions League Preview: BATE, Celtic enter as competition hots up
By Football News
BATE Borisov and Celtic get their UEFA Champions League campaigns under way on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively.
The two sides are perhaps the biggest names taking part in the second qualifying round with the Belarusians hosting Kazakh side Shakhter Karagandy and the Scottish champions taking on Northern Ireland's Cliftonville.
Gerard Lawlor, Cliftonville chairman, is one of many Celtic fans at the club and admits it was a "dream come true" to land a plum tie against the one-time European Cup winners.
Lawlor told UEFA.com: "As the draw came through I began to shake more and more and more.
"I am just delighted for the fans and for our players – probably so many of them would be Celtic supporters – and it is just a dream come true for the club."
Steaua Bucharest side will face Macedonian side Vardar as they look to reach the competition's group stage for the first time since 2008/09 while Dinamo Zagreb travel to Luxembourg to take on Fola.
Viktoria Plzen will get the round under way on Tuesday with their fixture against Bosnian side Zeljeznicar while Sheriff's home clash with Sutjeska also takes place on the same night.
EB\Streymur and Shirak, who won through the first qualifying round, will take on Dinamo Tbilisi and Partizan respectively while Scandinavian duo Molde and FH Hafnarfjordur both face away trips in their first legs.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who won the competition in 1999 as a player at Manchester United, takes his Molde side to Irish side Sligo Rovers as Iceland's FH make the trip to Lithuania to meet Ekranas.
Fellow Scandinavian outfit Elfsborg, of Sweden, will need to get past Latvia's Daugava Daugavpils in order to reach the next round while Maccabi Tel-Aviv travel to Hungary to take on Gyor as they look to reach the group stage for the first time since 2003/04.
As well as Sutjeska and Daugava Daugavpils, JK Nomme Kalju will also make their bow in the tournament, with the Estonian side travelling to HJK Helsinki.
Ludogorets will play just their third game in the competition when they travel to the Stadion Pasienky to face Slovan Bratislava while Legia Warsaw make the trip to Wales to face The New Saints.
Neftci and Birkirkara's respective home fixtures against Skenderbeu and Maribor complete the round.