Celtic vs AEK Athens – Wednesday, August 8, 19:45 BST/20:45 CEST – Celtic Park, Glasgow, Scotland
The Scottish champions welcome their Greek counterparts to Glasgow on Wednesday night, in a fixture that both sides will want to win. Neither of these two sides are strangers to the Champions League group stage. The all important play-off awaits the victors of this two leg qualifier. Celtic vs AEK Athens is one of the standout ties of this stage of the competition.
Celtic returned to domestic action on the weekend and, predictably it was Brendan Rodgers’ side who romped to victory. Making light work of Livingston they got their pursuit of an eighth successive title off to a 3:1 start.
It took the Celts seven minutes to find the net on the opening day of the Scottish Premier League, they will hope their Champions League exploits walk a similar path as they aim to make the group stage once again.
Last season Celtic found themselves in an exceptionally strong group – welcoming Bayern München, PSG and Anderlecht to Paradise they eventually finished third. However, a disappointing result at the hands of Zenit Saint Petersburg saw the Hoops crash out of the Europa League at the Round of 32 stage.
Unlike their Wednesday night hosts, AEK Athens are not due to return back to domestic action until 25th August. This set of Champions League qualifiers come amidst their pre-season training routine and it will be the first outing for Marinos Ouzounidis as AEK manager.
The Kitrinomavree haven’t played a competitive fixture since the Greek Cup Final back in May. They will have wished for different test than the one awaiting them at Celtic.
Further bad news was received this week as AEK captain, Petros Mantalos was declared unfit to play on Wednesday night. The midfielder picked up a groin injury during training and won’t travel with the AEK squad to Glasgow.
Should the side from Athens manage to get past this first hurdle then either Swedish side Malmö, or the Hungarian champions Vidi await them in the play-off round.
Celtic vs AEK Athens – Players to look out for:
Tom Rogic #18 – Celtic
The Australian gave a man of the match performance over the weekend as Celtic returned to winning ways on the opening day of the Scottish Premier League season. His goal after seven minutes – a rare header – was swiftly followed by an assist. It was a magnificent performance, one in which The Daily Record described the 25-year-old as having ‘twinkle-toes’.
Marko Livaja #10 – AEK Athens
Arriving on a permanent deal from Spanish side Las Palmas in the summer transfer window, the game versus Celtic should be the 24-year-old Croatian’s chance to prove his 10 goals whilst on loan last season can become a regular achievement. Falling at the hands of CSKA Moscow at this exact stage last year, the centre forward will be keen to try and further the disappointment of last seasons Champions League qualification round.
For a striker it is perhaps surprising that his ability in front of goal is bettered by his link up play with those around him. Tapped into last season by the AEK Athens management, Livaja was frequently played in a number 10 role. Should he be given the chance, he will try his luck from distance – long shots are a favourite.
Celtic vs AEK – Match Stats
- Celtic have beaten Alashkert and Rosenborg en route to the third-round qualification stage
- AEK Athens join the competition at the third-round qualification stage
- Wednesday’s hosts strolled to victory on the opening day of the Scottish Premier League season
- AEK Athens will be without captain Petros Mantalos, withdrawn from the squad due to injury
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Celtic vs AEK Athens – 3-1
Celtic vs AEK Athens – Lineups
Gordon – McGregor, Simunovic, Ajer, Lustig – Kouassi, Brown – Hayes, Rogic, Sinclair – Edouard
Head Coach: Brendan Rodgers
Barkas – Lopes, Oikonomou, Ćosić, Bakakis – Simões, Alef – Albanis, Livaja, Matalos – Ponce
Head Coach: Marinos Ouzounidis
Chris Williams is a freelance European football journalist. Primarily covering the Bundesliga, Premier League and both of UEFA’s European club competitions. Published in both local and international publications, he also contributes to television and radio across the globe. A member of the UK’s Sports Journalist Association and the International Sports Press Association (AIPS). Follow Chris Williams on Twitter @Chris78Williams