After anxious nights in Yerevan and Alkmaar, Rangers and Celtic secured their places in the group stage of the Europa League.
It’s the fourth season in a row for the Rangers in the groups, while Celtic is kicking off their third season, with both sides finding out their fate in the draw on Friday from 11:00 a.m.CET.
The Old Firm will both be in Pot 2, which means they can’t pull Braga, Eintracht Frankfurt, Red Star Belgrade, Leicester City, Lokomotiv Moscow and Genk. But who could they face ..?
Pot one contains heavyweight names from the top 5 leagues in Europe, but also ominous opponents from lesser-known competitions. Celtic played Lazio at home and away a few seasons ago, but Bayer Leverkusen and Slavia Prague have both put an end to Rangers’ co-ambitions over the past two seasons.
Regardless of the feverish atmosphere in Croatia, Dinamo Zagreb clearly looks like the most generous team to draw.
Pot three also looks relatively well stacked. West Ham, Marseille, Sociedad and Betis put leaders in the league, while players like Fenerbahce and Spartak are trips worth avoiding.
Ludogorets may be the cheapest opponent after Rangers defeated Malmö pushed them out of Champions League qualification.
There are many well-known names among the four top teams. Sparta Prague defeated Celtic in the group stage at home and away last season and Ferencvaros did it for them in Champions League qualifying, as did Midtjylland this season.
The Rangers had a couple of group meetings with Rapid Vienna three seasons ago, while Galatasaray ended up playing for St. Johnstone in this season’s qualifying rounds.
How much is it worth and when are the games?
Qualifying for the groups guarantees € 3.6 million (£ 3.1 million), with each win earning an additional € 630,000 (£ 541,000) and a tie £ 210,000 (£ 180,000).
The group’s win would add another € 1.1 million (£ 900,000), with runners-up receiving half that amount, and another € 500,000 (£ 429,000) added to the pot to make the final 32. And the prize money increases from there up to 8.6 million euros (7.4 million pounds) for the winners of the competition.
Add in TV money, commercial income, and entry fees and it’s a decent earner – if not Champions League money.