Lennon: We want to miss the big guns – but they're all big guns in Champions League draw

Celtic in knockout draw for first time in five years as Manchester United and Arsenal also to learn fate

Theirs has been the story of the Champions League so far this season. Celtic and romance in Europe's highest competition have always walked hand in hand since Jock Stein led a group of players born within a good jog of Celtic Park to triumph over Internazionale in Lisbon in 1967.

Current manager Neil Lennon has stirred memories of that famous night at the Estadio Nacional, with a run to the knockout stages of this season's tournament. Celtic's budget has been dwarfed by those they have faced, but it has not mattered, their spirit, organisation and tenacity a glowing and growing testimony to Lennon.

They were cruelly defeated in injury-time in the Nou Camp. The 2-1 victory against Barcelona in the return leg at Celtic Park will go down as one of the greatest upsets seen in European football for years. It has taken Celtic to the knockout stage of the competition for the first time in five seasons.

Now Lennon wants to avoid the remaining giants of European football, including Manchester United, as the Scottish Premier League leaders look to carry their form beyond the final 16 of the Champions League, in today's draw in Nyon.

"In Europe you never really feel confident," he said. "You always worry about all the opposition. I would like to avoid the big guns, I say big guns, but they're all big guns.

"Bayern Munich are a tough, top team, Manchester United, obviously, and Juventus, who have been pretty consistent for a few seasons. Dortmund have been excellent over the last couple of years as well.

"Malaga spent a lot of money. Whether they will have to sell in January, we will have to wait and see. PSG are probably relative newcomers but they are well backed. Schalke have pedigree, they made the semi-final in 2011. If we can avoid the top four and one of those three, you might think we have a chance over two games. Look, whatever the draw brings, we will analyse it to death to get the team ready for whatever comes.

"We have got through the psychological barrier of winning away from home as well now."

For the first time in the Champions League, the reigning champions have not reached the stage where the competition really starts to get interesting. Robert Di Matteo paid for non-qualification for this stage with his job at Chelsea, but in such a rarified atmosphere, the failures match the rewards. Manchester City, the champions of England, will similarly feel the real pain of failing to get out of the qualification group today. For them, there is not even the fallback of the Europa League, although their bid to retain the league title may yet benefit from that secondary slip-up.

The absence of Chelsea is more notable given the amount of teams left at this stage who have already lifted the trophy. More than half (nine) of the remaining 16 teams have won Europe's premier competition at some point in their history.

The eight group winners will be paired against the eight runners-up in two-legged ties that will be played in February. Manchester United, who won Group H, cannot, however, be paired with another club from the same country at this stage of the competition. Thus, there will not be a battle of England against Arsenal, who finished runners-up in Group B. United could, however, as Lennon alluded to, face Celtic, who were runners up in Group G. United could also be paired with Porto, Milan, Real Madrid (who they were picked to face in a rehearsal draw yesterday), Shakhtar Donetsk or Valencia. Sir Alex Ferguson's side won their first four group games, before two relatively meaningless defeats.

For Arsenal, the cost of not winning their group becomes apparent at 10.30am today. The list of potential opponents is a who's who of European powerhouses. It could be Paris St-Germain, Barcelona, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund or Malaga. However, Arsène Wenger will know only too well of the calming nature a Champions League run can have on a troubled domestic campaign.

Celtic and Lennon similarly face giants wherever they turn. They could take on any of Arsenal's opponents, apart from Barcelona. Instead, they have Schalke and United to contend with. In their favour is the fact that Celtic Park is a European fortress that few clubs in the draw will feel particularly pleased about heading to.

Beating Barcelona has been the story of this year's competition by a country mile. By lunchtime today, however, some of European football's true giants will be concerned about their very future in the competition.

The seeding pots for the draw are as follows:

Group winners: Paris Saint-Germain FC (FRA), FC Schalke 04 (GER), Málaga CF (ESP), Borussia Dortmund (GER), Juventus (ITA), FC Bayern München (GER), FC Barcelona (ESP), Manchester United FC (ENG)

Group runners-up: FC Porto (POR), Arsenal FC (ENG), AC Milan (ITA), Real Madrid CF (ESP), FC Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR), Valencia CF (ESP), Celtic FC (SCO), Galatasaray AŞ (TUR)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project