Date: 18th February 2013 at 8:52am
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Champions League Celtic newsCeltic will start to the 2013/14 season in mid July- if they win the SPL title.

With an 18 point lead and 12 matches left to play the destination of the title is virtually sealed with a win over Motherwell next Wednesday likely to start the guessing game as to where and when the championship will be clinched.

Despite their Champions League heroics this season, stretching over 12 matches from Helsinki to Turin, Celtic will be involved in the second round draw for next season’s competition.

The draw for that will take place on June 24 with the second round matches played on July 16/17 and 23/24 with the third round draw being made in-between those matches with the games played on July 30/31 and August 6/7.

Celtic are likely to be the top seeded team in the second round draw due to their own co-efficient but it’s the national co-efficient that determines what stage you enter the competition.

An earlier start to the season means that the club will almost certainly be spending their pre-season in Europe following the success of this season’s trip to Germany and Holland.

The biggest problem will be for international players with a full card of World Cup qualifiers on June 7/8 seeing Scotland travel to Croatia. Emilio Izaguirre is likely to be in the Honduras side that faces qualifiers against Costa Rica and the USA on June 7 and 18.

To combat those demands Neil Lennon may give some of his players time off depending on Celtic’s progress in the Scottish Cup with the quarter final away to St Mirren on March 2 possibly the most important match of the season.

A win over St Mirren will keep the season going with a semi-final to overcome before hopefully the Scottish Cup Final on May 25.

Looking ahead at the early start to next season Joe Ledley said: “We’ve looked at the possibility of some players finishing the season early if we can win the league quickly.

“We are only going to have a short break as it stands, three weeks I think, and it’s important as professional footballers to have rest.

“It is not ideal just to have three weeks and then get right back into it again with crucial qualifiers early in the next season.

“We have played 45 games already, so it would be a good idea to rest people. Rest is key with the amount of games we will have played in this campaign.”

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