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Celtic close in on group stage as Helsingborg visit

Published: Wednesday 22 August 2012, 9.45CET
A 2-0 victory at Helsingborgs IF leaves Celtic FC well-placed to reach the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time since 2008/09 as the teams reconvene in Glasgow.
Celtic close in on group stage as Helsingborg visit
Action from the first leg between Celtic and Helsingborg ©AFP/Getty Images
Published: Wednesday 22 August 2012, 9.45CET

Celtic close in on group stage as Helsingborg visit

A 2-0 victory at Helsingborgs IF leaves Celtic FC well-placed to reach the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time since 2008/09 as the teams reconvene in Glasgow.

Celtic FC are within sight of a first appearance in the UEFA Champions League group stage in four seasons as they welcome Helsingborgs IF to Glasgow for the second leg of their play-off.

• A goal in either half from Kris Commons and Giorgos Samaras gave the Scottish champions a valuable victory in the first game in Sweden on 21 August and left Helsingborg with it all to do if they are to reach the group stage for only the second time.

• The clubs share a famous former player in Henrik Larsson, who was born in Helsingborg.

Match background
• Ominously for Helsingborg, Celtic have lost only one of their last eight European home games, winning six of them. Their last home fixture in the UEFA Champions League play-offs, however, ended in a 2-0 reverse against Arsenal FC in August 2009.

• Helsingborg won 3-0 at WKS Śląsk Wrocław in the third qualifying round although that ended a four-game run without an away victory in Europe. The Swedish side have never before come through a tie in which they lost the home first leg and have won just nine of their 33 away matches in UEFA competition. Five of those victories were by margins that would take them through outright against Celtic, while they have also won 2-0 away once.

• Åge Hareide's team have got this far thanks to victories over The New Saints FC (3-0 agg) and Śląsk (6-1 agg) while Celtic beat HJK Helsinki 4-1 over two legs in their third qualifying round tie.

• Helsingborg's only previous qualification for the group stage was achieved following a shock victory over FC Internazionale Milano. They claimed Inter's scalp in the 2000/01 third qualifying round after Michael Hansson's solitary goal in the first leg in Sweden settled the tie. Today's Helsingborg squad includes four players who featured against Inter – Christoffer Andersson, Álvaro and Erik Wahlstedt, who started both matches, and Mattias Lindström, a late substitute at San Siro.

• Helsingborg have had less luck in qualifiers recently, missing out on the UEFA Europa League group stage in 2009/10 and 2011/12. Their last run in Europe of note was to the last 32 of the UEFA Cup in 2007/08.

• Celtic, who have never lost a European tie after winning away from home in the first leg, are looking to return to the UEFA Champions League for the first time since 2008/09, since when they have lost to Arsenal in the 2009/10 play-offs and SC Braga in the 2010/11 third qualifying round.

• European champions in 1967, Celtic have contested six campaigns in the modern UEFA Champions League but had never faced Swedish opposition before the first leg.

• The first leg was Helsingborg's first competitive meeting with Scottish opponents.

Team ties
• Henrik Larsson hit 242 goals in 315 competitive appearances for Celtic between 1997 and 2004 during a career which featured two spells with Helsingborg – first from 1992-93 and then from 2006-09. When Larsson hung up his boots, Helsingborg retired his No17 shirt.

• As Norway coach, Hareide oversaw a 0-0 draw in Scotland in 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying, in which Celtic's Scott Brown featured for the home side.

• Celtic's Mikael Lustig was in Sweden's UEFA EURO 2012 squad with Helsingborg's Pär Hansson and is a former Under-21 colleague of Walid Atta. Atta, meanwhile, was briefly a team-mate of Celtic's Mohamed Bangura at AIK Solna in 2010.

• Helsingborg's Erik Edman played for Sweden alongside Celtic's assistant coach Johan Mjällby – both were in their country's UEFA EURO 2004 squad.

• Celtic's Samaras was in the Greece side beaten 2-0 by Sweden at UEFA EURO 2008.

• Helsingborg reserve goalkeeper Daniel Andersson played in Scotland for Hibernian FC from 2003-04. He appeared in five matches against Celtic, losing four of them – including a 6-0 defeat at Celtic Park.

• Helsingborg's new recruit Alejandro Bedoya spent last season with Celtic's rivals Rangers FC.

• Alfred Finnbogason, who ended his loan spell at Helsingborg when joining sc Heerenveen on 16 August, spent part of his childhood in Edinburgh while his father studied in the city and played football for the reputed boys' club Hutchison Vale as well as regularly attending matches at Hibs' Easter Road stadium.

Last updated: 23/08/12 17.24CET

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