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Celtic play-off in Israeli desert, Europe’s most southerly stadium

Jerusalem (AFP) – When Celtic play Hapoel Beer-Sheva of Israel in the playoff round for the Champions League group stages, it will in the most southernly stadium in UEFA’s history.

The Israeli side were drawn against the Scottish giants on Friday, with the winner qualifying for the group stages of Europe’s top football competition.

Hapoel shocked Greek giants Olympiakos in the third qualifying round and the total unknowns are looking to make the group stages for the first time in their history.

They play in the Turner Stadium in the desert of southern Israel, the most southerly stadium in European competition history, UEFA confirmed.

For the Scottish club, used to far colder climes, the weather could be a hindrance — temperatures in the summer can reach over 40 degrees in August.

Even at the evening kick-off time it could be over 30 degrees.

The team won their first title since the 1970s last year, seeing off more established Israeli clubs including Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa.

It completed a remarkable turnaround for Hapoel, having avoided relegation by two points in 2012.

They are also the only major Israeli club owned by a woman, with Alona Barkat, the wife of tech billionaire Eli, buying the club in 2007.

They had an average attendance of 15,405 last season.

Uri Levy, chief editor of the Jerusalem-based Babagol football website, said they didn’t lose a game at home last season, with the fans known for making opposition teams uncomfortable.

“The temperatures could be 33 to 35 degrees, with a very dry heat,” he said. “It is an English-style stadium, with 16,000 seats and the atmosphere will be hostile.”

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