Celtic: Callum McGregor eager to learn Champions League opponents

Callum McGregor celebrates in Israel
Callum McGregor is hoping for some "big ties" in the Champions League

Callum McGregor was a Celtic Park ballboy during many famous Champions League nights in Glasgow's East End.

Less than 10 years later, the 23-year-old started both legs of the 5-4 aggregate play-off win over Hapoel Beer Sheva.

And on Thursday afternoon, McGregor will join his team-mates in watching the group stage draw which will thrust the Scottish champions back into the European spotlight.

"It's an unbelievable feeling," he told BBC Scotland.

"To come through the academy as a kid, watch the big Champions League nights, ballboy at them and now I have the chance to play in them.

"I was ballboy for a few years and I remember the games against Shakhtar Donetsk [Massimo Donati scoring a late Celtic winner]. I was there for that, plus Man United and the Artur Boruc penalty save (Shunsuke Nakamura's spectacular free-kick sealing a famous Celtic victory), so there's been a few.

"It's great to now go and be a part of that and really enjoy it."

McGregor's Celtic awakening ironically came during the first of two botched attempts to reach the Champions League during Ronny Deila's two seasons at the helm.

He scored in both away games against Legia Warsaw and Maribor in 2014 as the burden of expectation weighed heavily on the Norwegian's shoulders.

Callum McGregor opened the scoring for Celtic in a 4-1 defeat by Legia Warsaw
Callum McGregor opened the scoring for Celtic in a 4-1 defeat by Legia Warsaw in July 2014

But he was not even close to a first-team berth when they succumbed to Swedish side Malmo a year later.

"It's so difficult to cross that line," he said.

"It makes you appreciate it and we're delighted as a club that we've got there and are able to give the fans some really good Champions League nights.

"We've worked so hard since we came in on the first day of pre-season. It means everything to us.

"You need to appreciate it when you get it."

After a difficult night in Israel and with a mouth-watering list of potential opponents awaiting them in Thursday's glittering draw in Monaco, McGregor is relaxed about who they may face.

"Anybody, we'll take anybody after the play-off," he added.

"We'll sit down and watch the draw and obviously we'll be hoping for some big ties.

"We're looking forward to it. It's massive for the club, that's where we want to be as players, for the fans, everybody.

"Hopefully, we can really kick on from here."

Champions League pots

Pot 1: Real Madrid (Spain), Barcelona (Spain), Leicester City (England), Bayern Munich (Germany), Juventus (Italy), Benfica (Portugal), Paris Saint-Germain (France), CSKA Moscow (Russia).

Pot 2: Atletico Madrid (Spain), Borussia Dortmund (Germany), Arsenal (England), Manchester City (England), Sevilla (Spain), Porto (Portugal), Napoli (Italy), Bayer Leverkusen (Germany)

Pot 3: Basel (Switzerland), Tottenham Hotspur (England), Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine), Lyon (France), PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands), Sporting Lisbon (Portugal), Club Brugge (Belgium), Borussia Monchengladbach (Germany)

Pot 4: Celtic (Scotland), Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia), Monaco (France), Besiktas (Turkey), Legia Warsaw (Poland), Ludogorets Razgrad (Bulgaria), FC Copenhagen (Denmark), Rostov (Russia)

Key Champions League dates

  • 13-14 September - First round of group matches
  • 6-7 December - Final round of group matches
  • 14-15/21-22 February - Round of 16, first leg
  • 07-08/14-15 March - Round of 16, second leg
  • 11-12 April - Quarter-finals, first leg
  • 18-19 April - Quarter-finals, second leg
  • 02-03 May - Semi-finals, first leg
  • 09-10 May - Semi-finals, second leg
  • 03 June - Final (Principality Stadium, Cardiff)

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