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Strachan looks for solid start

Published: Wednesday 27 July 2005, 19.40CET
Celtic FC will be among 16 sides in action as the remaining second qualifying round ties get under way.

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Published: Wednesday 27 July 2005, 19.40CET

Strachan looks for solid start

Celtic FC will be among 16 sides in action as the remaining second qualifying round ties get under way.
Gordon Strachan begins his managerial career with Celtic FC in earnest tonight hoping to embark on the long adventure in the UEFA Champions League that always proved elusive to his predecessor Martin O'Neill.

Celtic's struggles
The Glasgow team were the first British winners of Europe's premier club competition in 1967 but have struggled to make a significant impact in recent years, failing to progress from the group stage in three of the past four seasons. The other year saw them depart the competition at the third qualifying round. Former Manchester United FC winger Strachan, who was named as O'Neill's successor in May, has the incentive to improve on that record, starting tonight when Celtic visit FC Artmedia Bratislava in their second qualifying round first leg.

Home strengths
The Scottish side will be wary of their opponents' home form, the Slovakian champions overcoming a two-goal deficit from the away leg of their first qualifying round tie against FC Kairat Almaty to go through 4-3 on aggregate.

Formidable away
There was an equally emphatic second-leg victory for F91 Dudelange last week and that puts them in good heart for tonight's challenge against Austrian opponents SK Rapid Wien. Dudelange lost their home game to Bosnia-Herzegovnian team NK Zrinjski but then scored four goals – three in extra time – to become the first Luxembourg club to pass through a round of the European Champion Clubs' Cup for 42 years.

Shelbourne hopeful
Republic of Ireland champions Shelbourne FC also created a piece of history, winning home and away in a European tie for the first time to see off Northern Irish rivals Glentoran FC in the first qualifying round. That set up a meeting with 1985/86 competition winners FC Steaua Bucuresti with tonight's first leg in Dublin.

Byrne hot
No Romanian side have managed to advance to the group stages of the competition since the turn of the century and Steaua will be wary of Jason Byrne who scored four times in the 6-2 aggregate victory against Glentoran.

Sheriff's step up
FC Sheriff, another team to win convincingly in the last round, also face a difficult task as they take on FK Partizan in Belgrade. The Moldovan champions, winners by 4-1 and then 2-0 against Sliema Wanderers FC, cannot expect things to be anywhere near as easy this time. Similarly, Macedonian title-holders FK Rabotnicki, also 6-1 aggregate victors last time out, know they have a much tougher test against FC Lokomotiv Moskva.

Under par
Swedish champions Malmö FF will hope to improve their form when they host Maccabi Haifa FC, who in the 2002/03 group stage posted a 3-0 triumph against Manchester United FC. Malmö have failed to build on their good start to the Allsvenskan campaign – taking 13 points from a possible 15 – and last week lost 1-0 to BK Häcken to remain four points behind leaders Djurgårdens IF.

Final ties
The two remaining games see PFC CSKA Sofia travel to Albania to play KF Tirana while HNK Hajduk Split are in Hungary seeking to make progress at the expense of Debreceni VSC.

Last updated: 27/07/05 20.55CET

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