Celtic relishing challenge ahead

Celtic FC captured the positive mood after Friday's UEFA Champions League qualifying round draws.

Last hurdle
A total of 38 clubs learned today who stands in their way if they want to reach the third qualifying round in August, the last barrier before the prized group stage. Twenty sides will compete in the first qualifying round, with the ten winners joining 18 more clubs in the next round.

Success wanted
Celtic, who lifted the European Champion Clubs' Cup in 1967, were hopeful of another successful campaign to match the feat of reaching last month's UEFA Cup final. Speaking to uefa.com, Ronny Hawthorn, the club's head of operations, revealed that his team were confident of overcoming either HB Tórshavn of the Faroe Islands or Lithuania's FBK Kaunas in the second qualifying round.

'Tremendously important'
He said: "We will now start doing our homework very carefully and finding out as much as we can. We are a confident team and as we went through the competition last year the confidence really grew. We will approach it with our feet on the ground and give our opponents the utmost respect. It is tremendously important, there is no question about it."

First task
For their part, Kaunas are just concentrating on overcoming HB. "I don't think that playing the Faroe Island champions is a cakewalk," said coach Sergei Borovski. "There is no weak opposition in Europe anymore. But of course we should be in the second round."

Equal chance
AFC Rapid Bucuresti, the Romanian champions, were also upbeat despite being drawn in the second qualifying round against the might of Belgian team RSC Anderlecht. Rapid coach Mircea Rednic is a former R. Standard de Liège player. Constantin Dan Zotta, Rapid general secretary, told uefa.com: "Anderlecht are a very strong team but I think now we have a very strong group of players and I think both teams have the same chance. Even if Anderlecht are better known I hope we can get through."

Gusev confident
PFC CSKA Moksva are also straight into the second qualifying round, and will play the winners of the tie between F.Y.R. Macedonian champions FK Vardar and Welsh title-holders Barry Town AFC. CSKA's Russian international midfield player Rolan Gusev said: "It is hard to say which of the two teams will win and qualify to meet us, but we have to beat either of them. The fans will not understand us, if we do not advance to next round. It is our duty to win this one."

Inside help
Djurgårdens IF, the Swedish champions, are facing a tricky tie against their counterparts from Serbia and Montenegro, FK Partizan. Djurgården president Bo Lundquist noted that the club's assistant coach Zoran Lukic was from Belgrade and would help with preparations. Lunquist added: "They're a very good football club, tough competition for us. We are looking forward to it."

'Good fight'
Back in the first qualifying round, FC Flora coach Arno Pijpers is well aware his team will face the might of FC Shakhtar Donetsk if they can overcome FC Sheriff Tiraspol of Moldova. Speaking to uefa.com, he said: "It is not the draw I would have wanted for - Sheriff Tiraspol are a very strong opponent. We are going to give it a good fight and hope to qualify." Shakhtar president Rinat Akhmetov believed his club "would have all it takes to advance".

Time to travel
Norway's Champions League specialists Rosenborg BK lie in wait for either FC BATE Borisov of Belarus or Bohemian FC of the Republic of Ireland. The latter club's general secretary Gerry Cuffe said the team would have preferred "something closer to home" but added that "I think we can do well". FC Skonto know they will meet the champions of Denmark, who will be decided on Sunday, if they can overcome Maltese challengers Sliema Wanderers FC. Coach Aleksandrs Starkovs said: "I understand that it will not be easy, but we have to advance."

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