Champions League qualifying: Group stages the ultimate prize for Celtic and Liverpool

Participation in the Champions League group stages is worth an extra £30 million to participating teams, while the allure of playing in the pinnacle of world football’s club game is every player’s dream.

The second legs of the final qualifying round will take place this week, with the final teams to make it into the next stage set to be determined.

Both Celtic and Liverpool are in midweek action, with the Scottish champions having a significantly easier task to reach the groups than the Merseysiders.

New gambling websites are offering very short odds on Brendan Rodgers’ men to qualify, with the Bhoys recording an impressive 5-0 victory over Kazakh outfit Astana at Parkhead in the first leg last week.

Celtic acquitted themselves well in the Champions League last season in a group that contained both Barcelona and Manchester City, with the aim this term to make it to the knockout rounds.

While the Hoops’ complete domination of the Scottish game has been confirmed after an unbeaten treble-winning 2016-17, the step up to thrive in Europe’s top tournament is sizeable.

Celtic have added brawn and guile in the heart of their midfield with the summer signing of Olivier Ntcham this summer, while the Glasgow supporters will hope that another loan deal for scintillating winger Patrick Roberts can be concluded to add star quality in the final third.

Rodgers’ men are all-but assured of progression given the lead they take to Kazakhstan, with Celtic’s seemingly name set to be included in Thursday’s group stage draw.

Liverpool also enter their second leg clash with an advantage but it is a much-more slender one and against better opponents.

Red coach Jurgen Klopp led his side to a 2-1 victory over Hoffenheim in his homeland in the first meeting of the sides but the Premier League outfit must be careful that complacency does not set in against the Bundesliga outfit in England.

Young right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold was the star of the show in the first leg, scoring an incredible free-kick to open the scoring, before a Havard Nordtveit own goal doubled Liverpool’s advantage.

However, a late Marc Uth goal for Hoffenheim keeps the tie alive as a contest and the visitors to Anfield are a dangerous proposition.

Had the German side scored the penalty that was missed by Andre Kramaric after 12 minutes of the game at the Rhein-Neckar Arena, the upcoming second leg may well have taken on a different complexion.

Despite Hoffenheim’s togetherness and quality, Liverpool are fancied to make the next stage and are favourites to progress.

The Champions League is undoubtedly the pinnacle of the European game and plenty of teams’ seasons will suffer a sickening blow with elimination in midweek.

However, for those that make the group stage, with Celtic and Liverpool expected to do so, playing at the top table is the ultimate reward.

Champions League qualifying: Group stages the ultimate prize for Celtic and Liverpool

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