Draw leaves Strachan with feeling of deja vu

August 31, 2007

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan admitted to a feeling of familiarity on discovering their Champions League group opponents.

The Scottish champions qualified with a dramatic penalty shoot-out against Spartak Moscow at Celtic Park on Wednesday and were rewarded by being drawn alongside holders AC Milan, Benfica and Shakhtar Donetsk in Group D - three clubs they have faced in the competition over the last three years.

In 2004, Celtic came up against Ukrainians Shakhtar in the group stages losing away and winning at home, while they met Benfica in last season's competition, again winning at Parkhead before failing on their travels.

Celtic were knocked out by eventual winners AC Milan after extra-time in the last-16, a Kaka goal being enough to separate the two sides in the San Siro.

Strachan was left less than enthralled by the Hoops' draw and told the club's official website: 'Looking at the Milan and Benfica squads, there aren't too many changes from last season and that means we know what we are facing in those games.

'I've never been up against Shakhtar, but the club has been in Donetsk quite recently and we'll have a look at them over the next few weeks.

'Obviously, it's a tough group and we probably wouldn't have wanted to be drawn against the two sides that we faced last year, AC Milan and Benfica.

'First of all, the fact that they are both good teams makes you think that way, but it's also for the fans.

'They would probably like to have seen us playing some new teams.

'The benefit is that we know what we are up against. We know the hotels, the flights, the logistics of going to all three places, because Celtic have been there in the last three or four years.'

Celtic legend Tommy Gemmell believes the Hoops can qualify through to the knockout stages if they solve their away problem.

The Parkhead men have never won away from Celtic Park in the tournament but managed to get through their group last season with three home wins.

However, the Lisbon Lion believes Celtic have to begin picking up points on the road.

He said: 'Celtic have played all three teams in recent years so they will have a fair idea what they will be up against.

'It is a difficult section for them but you would expect that in the group stages, you don't get any easy draws then with the seedings and what have you.

'To go any further then you have to play teams of that quality.

'They did well to get through against Spartak on Wednesday night because they were under pressure for an hour.

'But Celtic Park is not the problem, the problem is going away from home. Their away form doesn't set the heather alight.

'They beat Benfica 3-0 last season then lost 3-0 away.

'They also lost in Copenhagen by losing an nearly goal and that's something you can't do in Europe. If they can sneak two or three points away from home then they can go through.'