Celtic v KR Reykjavik: What do we know about Icelandic champions?

By Liam McLeodBBC Scotland
virgil van dijk
Callum McGregor, left, and Virgil van Dijk, centre, both scored against Reykjavik six years ago

It is sure to be a strange night when Celtic take to the field to begin their latest tilt at the Champions League on Tuesday, this time behind closed doors.

On what was supposed to be the first leg of the play-off for this season's tournament, and what is the actual night of the first semi-final of last term's competition, Scotland's representatives start their ever-arduous journey.

It is an expedition that has ended abruptly at the hands of Greek and Romanian opposition over the past two years as they take aim at the group stage of Europe's elite competition.

This time they begin their quest against the Icelandic champions KR Reykjavik, but what do we know about them?

Neil Lennon will take plenty of confidence from last season's Europa League campaign that saw Celtic bulldoze their way to two victories over Italian giants Lazio to top a group for the first time, before then succumbing to Copenhagen in the last 32 with a calamitous, late second-leg defeat.

One of the protagonists in the campaign is what feels like the ever-present Callum McGregor. On his debut in 2014, the midfielder scored the winner against Reykjavik in the Iceland first leg in what was Ronny Deila's maiden match in charge.

In truth, Celtic should have no problem sweeping KR aside again in what will be one-legged ties up to and including the recently problematic third qualifying round.

Reykjavik pose 'comfortable hurdle' for Celtic

Reykjavik may be unbeaten away from home domestically in their season, but should represent a comfortable hurdle to overcome before a potential second-round tie against Sweden's Djurgardens or Ferencvaros of Hungry, again at home.

Trailing leaders Valur by five points, but having played a game fewer, KR lost 2-1 to FH Hafnarfjordur on Saturday with former Rangers and Partick Thistle midfielder Steven Lennon among their conquerors.

The Icelandic season was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic before it emerged in early June with KR back under the management of Runar Kristinsson, who was Deila's opposite number six years ago.

On that occasion, they would lose the second leg 4-0, played at Murrayfield because Glasgow was hosting the Commonwealth Games, with doubles by Teemu Pukki and Virgil van Dijk seeing them ease through.

El Salvador attacking midfielder Pablo Punyed, who is KR's top scorer this season, and big striker Kristjan Finnbogason could pose the biggest threat to the home team on the night.

But, although these remains strange times, that should not put any stress on Celtic's European ambitions for this season.

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