Champions League: Celtic face Maribor in first leg of playoff tie
Last Updated: 20/08/14 4:45pm
Celtic travel to Slovenia to face Maribor on Wednesday looking to make the most of their UEFA Champions League reprieve.
The Scottish champions thought their dreams of gracing the group stage of Europe’s premier club competition had been dashed when they were hammered 6-1 on aggregate by Henning Berg’s Legia Warsaw in the third qualifying round.
The Polish side have, however, been expelled for fielding an ineligible player – with appeals to UEFA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport falling on deaf ears.
Celtic are determined to take an unexpected second chance, with manager Ronny Deila looking to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor Neil Lennon by bringing top-level continental football back to Parkhead.
He said: “After the game against Legia, we were disappointed. Now we have another chance and we have to show we have learnt something from those games. If we do that we will put on a better performance.”
Maribor will be no pushovers, though, as they attempt to reach the group stage for the second time in their history.
Their last showing at that level came back in 1999/2000, with four points taken off Dynamo Kiev and Bayer Leverkusen.
They have fallen agonisingly short in their efforts to get back to the top table in recent years, with the last two seasons seeing them fall at the final qualifying hurdle against Dinamo Zagreb and Viktoria Plzen.
Celtic winger James Forrest has been ruled out of Wednesday's clash as he has been nursing hamstring problems for several months and pulled up again towards the end of last weekend’s 6-1 victory over Dundee United.
The Scotland forward has not travelled to Slovenia with the remainder of the squad.
Another to miss the trip is defender Adam Matthews, who was replaced by Efe Ambrose before the start of the match against United after suffering a calf injury in the warm-up.
Ambrose will be available in midweek, despite not travelling with the Celtic party that flew out on Tuesday.
The Nigeria defender was sent off in the 4-1 defeat by Legia Warsaw in Poland and sat out the second leg of the third qualifying round tie at Murrayfield.
Celtic were initially of the opinion that Ambrose must serve a two-match European ban, but have since been made aware that he was only ruled out for one game,
Maribor's main threat may come from winger Agim Ibraimi, a Macedonia international who spent last season on loan with Cagliari in Serie A.
Maribor say they managed to beat off competition from a number of clubs, including Celtic, to secure Ibraimi on a new three-year contract.
Brazilian Tavares is the Slovenians' skipper and all-time top goalscorer; he recently became one of just six players to reach 300 appearances for the team.
Watch Maribor v Celtic in the Champions League play-off round live on Sky Sports 5 HD from 7pm on Wednesday night.