Rangers have been drawn against either Malmo or HJK Helsinki in the Champions League third qualifying round as they attempt to reach the group stage of Europe’s elite competition for the first time since the 2010/11 season.
Celtic, meanwhile, must face Midtjylland in the second qualifying round, with a tough third round tie against PSV Eindhoven or Galatasaray awaiting the winner.
Celtic were last in the Champions League group stage during the 2017/18 campaign, although new manager Ange Postecoglou has already cast doubt over the club’s prospects this season by complaining they are ‘not able to get people in quick enough’ to strengthen the squad.
Rangers’ Scottish Premiership title last season under the leadership of Steven Gerrard was their first since financial catastrophe a decade ago and is enough to get the club a place in the third qualifying round. After facing either Malmo of Sweden, a playoff tie stands between them and a place in the group stage. The draw could make it tough or favourable if Rangers are seeded.
Whatever happens, Rangers are guaranteed to be in the group stage of a European competition this season. Even defeat in the third qualifying round ‘champions path’ would mean transferring to the Europa League playoff round, which would in turn mean progressing to either the Europa League group stage if they win, or the Europa Conference League group stage if they lose.
If Rangers beat either Malmo or HJK but are later knocked out in the Champions League playoff round, they would move into the Europa League group stage. Winning both the third qualifying tie and playoff tie would obviously mean getting into the Champions League group stage.
Celtic only have to beat Midtjylland to also be guaranteed a group stage place in one of the three European competitions as defeat in the third qualifying round for them in the ‘league path’ would automatically result in a place in the Europa League group stage.
Defeat in the second round results in a place in the Europa League third qualifying round. Defeat at that stage would then mean a place in the Europa Conference League playoff round.
Celtic’s tie against Midtjylland will be played on Tuesday 20 July and Wednesday 28 July.
Third round qualifying ties will then take place on 3/4 August and 10/11 August.