Celtic visit CFR Cluj again having made sure of top spot in Group E, with the home side aiming to join them in the last 32.
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Celtic visit Transylvania for the second time this season in high spirits after securing top spot in Group E with a game to spare, with hosts CFR Cluj, the team that eliminated the Glasgow side from the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round in the summer, striving to join them in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase.
• With 13 points in the bag, Celtic are uncatchable at the top of the group. Already confirmed in the round of 32 after beating Lazio 2-1 in Rome on Matchday 4, they made it four wins in a row by beating eliminated Rennes 3-1 in Glasgow last time out, a result that, combined with CFR's 1-0 defeat at Lazio, secured first place in the section.
• CFR are on nine points, three more than Lazio who have the superior head-to-head and visit Rennes for their final group fixture. If the Romanian champions avoid defeat against Celtic, they will qualify for the round of 32 – as they will should Lazio fail to win in France.
• Celtic were 2-0 winners against CFR in Glasgow on Matchday 2, goals in each half from Odsonne Édouard and Mohamed Elyounoussi giving the home side their first win in the section.
• The clubs had already met twice this season in early August. A 1-1 draw in Romania, in which James Forrest equalised an earlier Mário Rondón strike, preceded an epic contest in Glasgow that saw CFR twice come from behind to win 4-3, clinching the tie in added time with a breakaway George Ţucudean goal and progressing to the UEFA Champions League play-offs at their hosts' expense.
• That was CFR's first meeting with Scottish opposition in UEFA competition, whereas Celtic had been paired with Romanian clubs twice previously. They have failed to win any of their three matches in Romania (D2 L1) though have drawn the last two.
• CFR claimed their fifth Romanian league title – and second in succession – in 2018/19, all of those triumphs having come since 2008. In Europe, they lost to Malmö in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League and got no further than the UEFA Europa League play-offs, where they were beaten twice (0-2 a, 2-3 h) by Dudelange of Luxembourg.
• A 1-0 loss at Astana kicked off this season's UEFA Champions League campaign, but CFR turned that tie around with a 3-1 home success and went on to beat Maccabi Tel-Aviv (1-0 h, 2-2 a) before knocking out Celtic. Slavia Praha proved too strong, however, in the play-offs, winning both games 1-0 to send CFR into their second UEFA Europa League group stage, the first, in 2009/10, having ended with just one win and five defeats.
• CFR have lost five of their last nine home fixtures in the UEFA Europa League, qualifying included (W3 D1), but have won both group games at their own stadium this term – 2-1 against Lazio and 1-0 versus Rennes. They have never drawn a match in the UEFA Europa League proper, their overall record, home and away, now standing at W4 L9. The Matchday 1 win against Lazio ended a run of seven straight defeats.
• Celtic won the domestic treble of Premiership, Scottish Cup and League Cup for an unprecedented third successive season in 2018/19, but in Europe they missed out on the UEFA Champions League group stage and lost five matches out of eight in the UEFA Europa League, including both round of 32 encounters against Valencia (0-2 h, 0-1 a).
• This term Celtic again failed to negotiate the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round, losing to CFR, but a comprehensive play-off win against 2018 Swedish champions AIK (2-0 h, 4-1 a) enabled them to reach the UEFA Europa League group stage for the sixth time. Three of their six participations at this juncture have now been successful, but they have yet to progress beyond the round of 32.
• Until last season's Matchday 5 victory at Rosenborg (1-0) the Glasgow club had never won outside Scotland in the UEFA Europa League. Their away record in the competition proper is now W2 D9 L9.
Links and trivia
• Ţucudean had a trial at Celtic as a 15-year-old and trained with the first team.
• Celtic are through to the round of 32 for the third year in a row. It is the first time that the Glasgow giants will be playing European football in the spring for a third successive season since they reached the latter stages of the European Cup four years running from 1968/69 to 1971/72.
• Celtic are one of only three clubs this season to have won their UEFA Europa League group with a game to spare, Spanish duo Sevilla (Group A) and Espanyol (H) being the others.
• Celtic won the Scottish League Cup for the fourth year in a row – and 19th time in all – with a 1-0 victory over Rangers at Hampden on Sunday, defender Christopher Jullien scoring the winning goal.
• The sixth most-capped Romanian international of all time, with 95 appearances, Dan Petrescu played in four successive major tournaments from 1994 to 2000. The attacking right-back also carved out a successful career at club level, notably with Steaua and in England at Chelsea, with whom he spent five years and won three major trophies. He has had a diverse coaching career, the highlight a surprise Romanian title triumph with Unirea Urziceni in 2008/09 – a feat he repeated with CFR Cluj in 2017/18 and again the following season after returning from China in March 2019.
• Having just left Hibernian, former Northern Ireland international Neil Lennon returned for a second spell as Celtic manager in February 2019 following Brendan Rodgers' mid-season move to Leicester City, and duly sealed the club's 'treble treble' of domestic trophies. He had previously served the Glasgow club as player (2000–07) and manager (2010–14), capturing 16 trophies during those spells, though it was at Leicester, where he won two League Cups under his compatriot Martin O'Neill, that he first made his mark as an industrious and effective midfield anchorman.