Celtic to face Riga FC side featuring FIVE Brazilians as Europe League third qualifying round opponents confirmed
Latvians have decent European pedigree despite only being formed five years ago
Celtic will face Riga FC in the Europa League third qualifying round next week after the Latvians came through their disrupted second qualifying round tie this morning.
The hosts overcame Tre Fiori of San Marino in a rescheduled kick-off early this morning after last night’s tie was abandoned after just eight minutes due to strong winds in the Latvian capital.
The match was quickly rescheduled for an 8.00 am kick-off at Skonto Stadium this morning with Riga emerging 1-0 winners thanks to a 57th minute goal from Portuguese winger Pedrinho, a recent addition from Primiera Liga side Pacos Ferreira.
Riga FC were formed just five years ago following a merger of capital clubs FC Caramba Riga and Dinamo Riga and won their first top flight championship in 2018 before successfully defending it in 2019.
They are currently on course to secure a third-straight title, leading the Virsliga by two points at the halfway stage of the season.
They are managed by former Spartak Moscow coach Oleg Kononov who has assembled a multi-national side in the hope of progressing into the group stages of the Europa League, having been knocked out of the Champions League first qualifying round by Maccabi Haifa in a 2-0 defeat in Israel last month.
Their top scorer for the current campaign is Congolese forward Kule Mbombo (24), who was on the books of Anderlecht as a youth, while their squad also includes five Brazilians – midfielders Roger and Wesley Nata, wingers Dario and Felipe Brisola and front man Stenio Junior.
In total the squad contains eight different nationalities including players from Argentina, Serbia, Ukraine, Albania, Czech Republic and Montenegro, as well as nine Latvians, most of whom have been capped by the national side.
While Celtic will be heavy favourites, Riga will prove tricky opposition having claimed some notable victories en route to the play-off round last season, knocking out decent Polish opposition in Piast Gliwice before also overcoming Finnnish side Reykjavik.
A shock 1-0 victory over Copenhagen in their first leg showed that they are no pushovers but the Danes rescued the tie with a 3-1 win in the second. In previous years, Riga have also beaten CSKA Sofia and HJK Helsinki.
The match will be Celtic’s first in this season’s Europa League as they enter the competition at the third qualifying round stage following their defeat to Ferencvaros in the second round of Champions League qualifying last month.