The draw for the first and second qualifying rounds of the UEFA Champions League was made in Nyon this afternoon, with Celtic, BATE Borisov and Steaua Bucharest amongst those hoping for a manageable path to the group stage.

Scottish champions Celtic, who triumphed over Barcelona to reach the knockout phase last season, enter the preliminary tournament in the second round and will face two legs against Northern Irish Premiership winners Cliftonville in mid-July.

Meanwhile BATE, the highest ranked team not to receive a bye into the third qualification round, are set to play Kazakh side Shakhter Karagandy, while the Romanian league holders Steaua were drawn against Macedonian club FK Vardar.

Teams progressing from the second round, which also involves familiar European names Dinamo Zagreb and Maccabi Tel Aviv, who also succeed in the third level of qualification will face an elite pool of teams for a place in the group stage.

Today's draw would have been closely regarded by former Champions League finalists Arsenal, as well as AC Milan, with the eminent clubs forced into the prospect of a two-legged play-off game in August to reach the tournament proper.

The qualification stage, however, begins in one week's time on July 2 and 3 - all in all, just 38 days after last season's Champions League final at Wembley Stadium.


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