Who awaits Celtic in the Champions League last 16?

 

Since the dawn of the Champions League era, Celtic have successfully negotiated the group stage on two occasions prior to this season.

If these two campaigns have demonstrated anything, it's that favourable draws are almost non-existent at the 'business end' of the tournament.

Celtic reached the knockout stage in successive seasons under Gordon Strachan, but their adventures were ended by two powerhouses of the European game.

In 2006-07, a famous 1-0 victory over Manchester United at Parkhead took Celtic through to the last 16 at the expense of Benfica. They were drawn to face AC Milan in the knockout stage.

Kris Commons' penalty gave Celtic a crucial win against Spartak Moscow

Kris Commons' penalty gave Celtic a crucial win against Spartak Moscow

A tense 0-0 draw at Celtic Park was followed by a similar affair in the second-leg at the San Siro. Only in extra-time did Celtic succumb to the brilliance of Kaka to lose 1-0 on aggregate.

Milan would go on to beat Liverpool in the final.

The following season, Celtic gained revenge on Milan with a 2-1 group stage win at Parkhead, a result that would help them edge out Benfica for the second year in a row to make the last 16. There they would face Barcelona.

Despite a spirited effort in front of their home support, Messi, Ronaldinho, Henry et all were too good in the first leg, leaving Glasgow with a 3-2 victory. Celtic defended stoutly at the Nou Camp, but lost 1-0 to exit the tournament with a 4-2 aggregate defeat.

So Celtic are through the last 16 once more, having qualified ahead of Benfica yet again.

Below are profiles of the seven teams Neil Lennon's men could be paired with when the draw is made on 20 December.

Bayern Munich

After the devastation of having the Champions League trophy snatched from their grasp by Chelsea - in front of their own fans to boot - Bayern look well equipped to put things right this season.

With three sides through to the last 16, German football appears to be in the midst of a resurgence, and yet Bayern have raced clear at the top of the Bundesliga. They edged out Valencia to top Group F.

Arjen Robben, Franck Ribéry and Mario Gomez would keep the Celtic defence busy to say the least, and the midfield would have their work cut out to minimise the influence of Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Borussia Dortmund

Marco Reus

Marco Reus scored in Dortmund's 1-1 draw at Manchester City

Bayern may have been taking the Bundesliga by storm, but few teams have been as impressive in the Champions League group stage as Dortmund.

Jürgen Klopp's men came out on top in a group featuring Real Madrid, and comprehensively outplayed Manchester City home and away.

Dortmund's strength is as a collective force, but individual talents such as Robert Lewandowski, Marco Reus and Mario Götze could trouble any team in Europe.

Juventus

After a troubled few years, the Old Lady of Italian football is beginning to resemble the fearsome model of yesteryear. Juve won last season's Serie A without suffering a single defeat, and are sitting pretty at the top again this time around.

Qualification for the knockout stage was not smooth sailing, but a resounding home win against the defending champions Chelsea, followed by a victory in the Ukraine against Shakhtar Donetsk, ensured they topped Group E.

Arturo Vidal is the driving force in midfield, but opponents cannot overlook the evergreen Andrea Pirlo, who continues to pick teams apart with his range of exquisite passing.

Malaga

Malaga

Malaga are so far unbeaten in this season's Champions League

There have been some suggestions that Malaga may represent the best draw for Celtic, but any team who progresses through the Champions League group stage without defeat is not to be taken lightly.

With Barcelona and the two Madrid clubs comfortably ahead at the top of La Liga, Malaga are battling for the fourth place that would ensure their return to the Champions League next season.

Despite selling a number of stars during the summer, including Santi Cazorla, to keep the club on a sound financial footing, Manuel Pellegrini has fashioned a side to compete with the best on the continent, with midfielder Isco impressing at home and abroad.

Manchester United

The highly charged 'Battle of Britain' clashes normally whet the fans' appetite, but Celtic supporters would be forgiven for wishing to give United a wide berth in the draw.

Patchy early-season form was a concern for Sir Alex Ferguson, and yet his side qualified as group winners in the Champions League and sit top of the Premier League after a dramatic derby win away to Manchester City.

Chief concern for Neil Lennon - among many - would be how to contain the twin threats of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie.

Paris Saint-Germain

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Sweden international Ibrahimovic signed for PSG in the summer from AC Milan

A financial investment of seismic proportions has not yielded the desired dominance of Ligue 1 just yet, but PSG boast several stars to be feared.

They may trail Lyon in the French table, but nobody accrued more points in the Champions League group stage than Carlo Ancelotti's side.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic on his day comes close to backing up his own claims that he is on a par with the world's best. The worry for Celtic is that a last-16 tie could be one such occasion.

Schalke 04

Perhaps the least daunting of the three German sides in the last 16, but as Arsenal will testify, Huub Stevens' side should be dismissed at your peril.

With Bayern running away with the Bundesliga, Schalke are amongst the rest left behind fighting for position.

Schalke inflicted a 2-0 defeat on Arsenal at the Emirates en route to winning Group B. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has notched four goals in this season's competition, and will fancy his chances of firing Schalke into the last eight.

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