Champions League: How Celtic can make it into pot 3 for Thursday's draw

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers
Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers

Celtic face FC Astana in the second leg of the Champions League play-off round this afternoon, but provided the Hoops advance, results elsewhere could secure the Hoops a more favourable group draw.

Barring a spectacular collapse in Kazakhstan, Brendan Rodgers’ side has one foot in Thursday’s draw in Monte Carlo, having won the first leg 5-0.

Astana boss Stanimir Stoilov has already conceded that Celtic are ‘99 per cent through to the Champions League’.

As things stand, Celtic are the top-ranked team in pot four, ahead of the draw, but with four teams in higher pots still to successfully negotiate their way through the play-off stage - Liverpool, Sevilla, Napoli and Olympiacos - they could find themselves moved up into pot three if one of the quartet is eliminated.

Three of the four sides recorded first leg victories. Liverpool and Sevilla recorded 2-1 away wins against Hoffenheim and Istanbul Başakşehir respectively, while Napoli won 2-0 at home to French side Nice.

But Olympiacos needed a 93rd-minute winner to record a first leg victory over Rijeka after trailing by a goal at half time, and last year’s Croatian champions will be hopeful of a second leg victory at home.

If Rijeka do manage to knock out Olympiacos, they’ll be added to pot four - with Celtic being promoted to pot three as a result.

Should Olympiacos progress, but Liverpool, Sevilla or Napoli don’t, Celtic would still be promoted to pot three, as Hoffenheim, Istanbul Başakşehir or Nice would slot into pot four.

Promotion to pot three would see the Hoops join the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Roma, Basel and Anderlecht, which would give Celtic the chance of a more favourable group draw as they look to reach the knockout stages.

Brendan Rodgers has already admitted he’d relish the chance to face Liverpool, telling BT Sport after the first leg victory over Astana: “I hope at some time I can go back to Anfield. “Liverpool are a phenomenal team with a great manager. If we could both get through it would great. They’re two teams with fanatical support and great history.

“We want to make sure we get [to the group stage] and are in the draw.” As things stand, the seeding is as follows: Pot One: Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Juventus, Benfica, Monaco, Spartak Moscow, Shakhtar Donetsk.

Pot Two: Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City, Manchester United, Porto, Sevilla

Pot Three: Tottenham Hotspur, Basel, Anderlecht, Roma, Besiktas, Liverpoool, Olympiacos, Napoli

Pot Four: RB Leipzig, Feyenoord, Celtic, CSKA Moscow, Copenhagen, Sporting CP, APOEL Nicosia, Maribor

NB: Teams in italics are still to qualify from the play-off round