Celtic, Hibs aim to follow Gers' lead
Euro hat-trick on cards for Scottish clubs
Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers is looking for his team to keep up the momentum against Alashkert at Parkhead (pic: SNS Group)
Barring an upset the likes of which has never been seen before, Celtic and Hibs should make it a hat-trick of European successes for Scottish clubs this week.
Rangers duly completed a two-leg win over Shkupi with a 0-0 draw in Macedonia to book their place in the Europa League second qualifying round. They will face either Moldova’s CS Petrocub or Croatians NK Osijek, with the tie level at 1-1.
It was a fairly trouble-free 90 minutes for the Ibrox outfit, though boss Steven Gerrard is looking for more in attack.
“It’s a platform to build on,” he said. “But I’m disappointed with us in possession for the first 30 minutes. I don’t think we passed the ball well enough, and throughout the game there was a serious lack of quality in the final third.
“We will get better on the ball and we will improve in the final third. There are things I’m pleased at, but I am concerned about the lack of quality in the final third.”
The Hoops and the Hibees should follow suit in securing progress with both teams enjoying commanding advantages from their respective first legs last week.
Brendan Rodgers’ men are the first in action, when they welcome Alashkert to Celtic Park this evening for the Champions League first qualifying round, second leg clash, the Glasgow side going into the return having won 3-0 in Armenia.
Privately the Northern Irishman will know the tie was won seven days ago but he has called on his players to adopt a professional approach as they seek to finish the job off in front of their own fans.
“It’s only half-time in the contest,” he said.
“We did a solid, professional job in the first leg and we aim to continue with the momentum we’ve built up. The squad are looking very fit, very strong.
“We always have to respect them, they had a couple of opportunities out there. They showed they do have quality, they do have speed. So we have to pay attention to that.
“But we love to play at home and we aim to complete the job and get into the next round.”
Craig Gordon is back in contention for the hosts, although both Jonny Hayes and youngster Lewis Morgan are sidelined by injury.
Celtic will face either Rosenborg of Norway or Icelandic outfit Valur, with the latter leading 1-0 from the first leg.
Hibs also carved out a convincing win in their Europa League first qualifying round, first-leg tie against Runavik, the Edinburgh side strolling to a 6-1 victory at Easter Road.
The second leg tomorrow night will be nothing more than a formality for the Edinburgh side, though boss Neil Lennon will insist standards do not drop.
Swiss front man Florian Kamberi smashed a hat-trick while debutant Stevie Mallan netted a double with Oli Shaw also netting against a team far inferior to their opponents.
The big talking point from the first leg was the absence of Scotland star John McGinn, who has been the subject of two failed transfer bids from Celtic, the most recent one of £1.75million well short of the £4m. price tag Hibs are reported to have put on their player.
Lennon said the 22-year-old was injured for the first match and it remains to be seen how many more matches involve the fans favourite, who is into the final year of his contract.
When asked about the current situation, Celtic boss Rodgers said: “Between Neil and I, it’s out of our hands. It’s with the clubs. Hopefully for everyone’s sake it can be resolved, but it’s above me.”
Should they safely negotiate their second-leg, Hibs will face Greek outfit Asteras Tripolis in the next round.