Celtic will face Robin van Persie’s Fenerbahce, Ajax and Molde in the group stage of the Europa League. The Dutch striker joined the side who finished runners-up in the Turkish Super League from Manchester United. Fenerbahce were third seeds for the draw in Monaco, with Dutch Eredivisie runners-up Ajax being among the top-ranked sides and Celtic in Pot 2. Molde, who were among the fourth seeds, are the current Norwegian champions but lie seventh this season. It will mean a return to his homeland for Celtic manager Ronny Deila, who won the title there with Stromsgodset before moving to the Scottish Premiership.
Like Celtic, who lost out to Malmo of Sweden in the play-off round, Molde dropped into the Europa League after being knocked out the Champions League – by Dinamo Zagreb on away goals in the third qualifying round. Away goals went in their favour in the Europa League play-off round as they edged out Standard Liege of Belgium to reach the group stage. Celtic last played Norwegian opponents in season 2001-2002, when they defeated Rosenborg at home but lost away in the Champions League group stage.
The Glasgow side had reached the group stage that season by defeating Ajax in a play-off. Celtic last played the Dutch in the Champions League group stage in season 2013-14, with the Scots winning 2-1 at home and losing 1-0 in Amsterdam. Ajax stumbled in the Champions League third qualifying round when they were beaten 5-4 on aggregate by Rapid Vienna. A single goal was enough to take them past Jablonec of the Czech Republic in the Europa League play-off round. However, they presently lead their domestic top flight on goal difference from Feyenoord after only three games. Celtic’s game against Fenerbahce will be the first time that the Glasgow outfit will have faced Turkish opposition in European competition. Fenerbahce presently lie fifth in their domestic league, but they are only two games into the season in Turkey.
They lost 3-0 on aggregate to Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine in the Champions League’s third qualifying round but eased past Greek outfit Atromitos 4-0 on aggregate to reach the Europa League group stage. Group matches will be held on 17 September, 1 and 22 October, 5 and 26 November and 10 December.