When European draws are made, it's always alluring for Celtic fans when the club is grouped with unfamiliar opposition. In Champions League seasons over the last couple of decades, competitive friendships with Barcelona, Benfica, AC Milan and, erm, Cluj... have been rekindled quickly or frequently to varying degrees of success.

In this year's Europa League, on top of playing Ferencvaros for the second consecutive season, Celtic will play Real Betis and Bayer Leverkusen for the first time, adding an extra air of excited anticipation to the impending campaign beginning in Seville on Thursday.

Real Betis, managed by Manuel Pellegrini, is the first of two consecutive away games for Ange Postecoglou, preceding Livingston at The Tony Macaroni which often produces its own trouble. It's fair to say the Livingston game is more of a must-win for Celtic but a few trends will need to change if they're to return from Andalucia with three European points; most importantly, the run of six defeats in a row, with a  goal difference of 19-1, against Spanish opposition since the legendary win against Barcelona in 2012. 

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Indeed, Celtic have lost 15 of their 18 visits to Spain, managing three draws and no victories. What a challenge to embrace then, against a Betis side that has been beaten just once in 12 matches in the Europa League group stage and last season finished above the competition's winners Villarreal in La Liga. Here, we profile Celtic's next European opponents, with the help of Sevilla-based Football Espana journalist and Betis fan, David Whitworth.

Players you've probably already heard of

Nabil Fekir - The Frenchman's move from Lyon to Betis two summers ago raised a few eyebrows after rumours of a more high-profile move, specifically to Arsenal, engulfed him for some time. He's a World Cup winner with France but his goalscoring exploits have dwindled since the transfer, managing 12 in 67 La Liga games compared to 54 in 145 in Ligue 1, which provides quantitative analysis to the qualitative opinion of David: "He's a maverick. When he plays well, he's outstanding but he only shows his true potential now and again. I'm sure Celtic will watch him closely because he's capable of great moments but that's the frustration for supporters. He's a big occasion player though, so shouldn't have any problems with getting himself psyched for the Europa League.

Hector Bellerin - The right-back is on loan from Arsenal and will provide some competition for former Barcelona player Martin Montoya, who joined from Brighton last summer for his second spell. With just under 250 games for Arsenal on his CV as well as four international caps, the quality is there but a revitalisation of his career is necessary after a few stop-start seasons in North London. Likely to grab the full-back jersey before long but in competition with Montoya and the other new right-back Youssouf Sabaly, David said: "Bellerin a great signing for us. We desperately needed some cover after selling our first-choice Emerson Royal to Barcelona and he brings a lot of experience."

Celtic Way:

Joaquin - What do Liel Abada and Adam Montgomery have in common, besides the fact they play for Celtic? They weren't born when Joaquin made his Real Betis debut in October 2000. Now 40, he's still going in the Andalucian capital after time at Malaga, Fiorentina and Valencia and has just signed a new contract until the end of this season. He played 27 games in La Liga last season although is expected to be used more sparingly this term, with "15 minutes, here and there," still allowing a "wonderful player" to make an impact.

Keep an eye open for

Guido Rodriguez - The holding midfielder, capped 17 times by Argentina, joined Betis from the Mexican side Club America in January. Although I've written "keep an eye out" for him, he seems to be the kind of player classed as playing well when you don't notice him. David explains: "Guido Rodriguez has been one of our most important players and is highly consistent; the needle that knits the team together between defence and attack. He's always there to make an important tackle and is usually in the right place at the right time. He's the fulcrum between shielding the defence and helping the midfield start attacks. We've got some high-quality attackers but for a while we've had a midfield that's too passive, but thanks to his solidity he's definitely a standout in the team now."

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The team and its style

Real Betis are good in possession. That's the first thing to recognise. This season, central midfielder Sergio Canales has tried 321 passes and been successful 291 times which astonishingly is the worst ratio in the squad, albeit from a larger sample size than most others. The majority of players in Betis' ranks have misplaced around 10 passes, give or take a few, but haven't tried as many as Canales.

We can expect to see Celtic's four defenders and Callum McGregor pressed quite intensely. This season Montoya, although he'll probably soon be ousted from the team, has won the ball 31 times with a third of those coming in the opposition half, while nearly half of left-back Alex Moreno's gains have come in opposition territory. He'll be injured for Thursday's game though and probably replaced by Juan Miranda who'll likely be told to follow the same instructions. Not only do the full-backs help with defending high up the pitch, but the attackers carry their fair share of responsibility. Fekir, Canales and Rodri all have extraordinary success rates in that regard. The latter has won the ball 13 times this season, 11 in the opposition half.

Celtic Way: Betis' Guido Rodriguez playing for ArgentinaBetis' Guido Rodriguez playing for Argentina

Betis like to set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation but have changed in every game so far to push Nabil Fekir closer to first-choice striker Borja Iglesias. Wyscout analysis shows us they like to work the ball infield and through the lines rather than set wingers free into the channels, with attacks started by centre-half pairing Edgar Gonzalez and Victor Ruiz, who will carry out jobs similar to those of the ones Celtic's defensive pairing is tasked with. Both of them have a pass success rate of 90 per cent this season and are more than able in that regard. It will be interesting to see who Postecoglou selects to try and get the better of them though, with Giorgios Giakoumakis hoping to showcase he has the attributes to get the better of them. The Greek striker's aerial prowess is easily noticeable in his highlight reel from last season's Dutch Eredivisie, but Gonzalez has lost nine of his 17 aerial duels in La Liga so far this season while Ruiz has failed in five of his nine. If Jota and Abada can produce goods from wide areas, Giakoumakis could ruffle some feathers even if it's from the bench later in the game.

The Spanish perception of Celtic

Real Betis fans and the local press are excited for their first European campaign since 2018/19 when Rennes knocked them out in the last-32. If Celtic concede, the chances are the best they can achieve is a draw as Betis have never conceded more than once in a Europa League group stage game and kept clean sheets in two-thirds of their games. Despite the odds being stacked in their favour against a Celtic side still learning its way, David says there's definitely an element of trepidation.

Celtic Way: Celtic fans are remembered fondly in SevilleCeltic fans are remembered fondly in Seville

"The fans hear Celtic's name and think of the history and tradition associated with the club. The players and the support won't know much about the current squad, it's more just the aura that Celtic's name has and with that comes a lot of respect. I think we can both recognise Leverkusen are the strongest team in the group and if we both take care of Ferencvaros then it could come down to the games in Sevilla and Glasgow.

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"The standout name people will know is Joe Hart because of his achievements with Man City and international caps with England, but they won't know many in the squad. There's cautious optimism we'll get off to a good start and everyone is looking forward to it. The media here are calling it the "green and white derby."

"People here still remember Celtic from the Cup Final in 2003 and we're gutted there can't be a repeat of that this time."