Celtic's Champions League opener 'will not worry Brendan Rodgers'

By Richard WilsonBBC Scotland
Brendan Rodgers takes the first day of pre-season training at Celtic on Monday
Rodgers oversaw the first day of pre-season training with Celtic on Monday

A trip to Tallin or Gibraltar will not alarm Brendan Rodgers.

There are challenges to overcome for the new Celtic manager, not least preparing his players for an early return to competitive action, but the second qualifying round draw for the Champions League has been relatively accommodating.

His first competitive match in charge of the Scottish champions will be against either Flora Tallin or Lincoln Red Imps, two teams that are used to only fleeting involvement in European football.

They are serial winners domestically, though. Flora have won Estonia's Meistriliga 10 times, more than any other club, while Lincoln have won a record 21 titles in Gibraltar, and are currently on a run of 14 consecutive championship wins.

That success has enabled European competition, with the semi-professional club becoming the first team from Gibraltar to feature in a Uefa competition when they played a Champions League qualifying round tie in 2014.

They lost, to Faroese side HB Torshavn 6-3 on aggregate, but beat Andorran outfit FC Santa Coloma at the same stage last season before being knocked out by Danes FC Midtjytlland.

Like all clubs in Gibraltar - as well as the national team - Lincoln play at the Victoria Stadium, which holds 5,000.

Lincoln Red Imps FC and College Europa FC's players take part in the Gibraltar Cup final in 2014
Lincoln play at Gibraltar's national stadium, underneath the famous Rock

Eight members of the most recent Gibraltar squad play for Lincoln - whose name was the suggestion of former Sheffield United chairman and Lincoln resident Reg Brealey when his friend, Charles Polson, was founding the club in 1976.

Among their full-time professions are admin clerk, customs official, policeman and shipping agent.

Managed by the Uruguayan Julio Cesar Ribas, Lincoln have won 14 consecutive Gibraltar Premier Division titles, sealing last season's triumph by 11 points.

There are similarities between Lincoln Red Imps and Flora Tallin, since the latter also play at the stadium used by the national team, the 9,692-capacity Lillekula Stadium, and are established as Estonia's most successful club.

Like the Red Imps, they are a relatively young club, having been established in 1990, but they have also developed a reputation for producing a steady stream of young players through their academy set-up.

Estonia striker Henrik Ojamaa was connected to the club before joining Derby County's academy and a career that has involved two spells at Motherwell.

Another forward, Henri Anier, now at Dundee United after previous spells at Motherwell and Hibernian, came though the Flora youth set-up into the senior side in 2008. Anier's younger brother, Hannes, is still at the club.

Seven members of the most recent Estonia squad play for Flora, although the current side is struggling in its defence of the league title. They are sitting fourth in the Meistriliga after 17 games, nine points behind the leaders and local rivals FC Levadia.

For Rodgers, the challenge is to gather information about how the teams play, the strengths and weaknesses of individuals, but also to organise his own team in a short period of time and implement his style of play and values.

Flora Tallin are likely to be the stronger of the two sides - they are ranked 329 in Uefa's club rankings,external-link with Lincoln down at 407.

They will both consider the prospect of facing Celtic in the next round as a prize, though.

Top Stories

Elsewhere on the BBC