The Dutchman and his defensive colleagues put in an accomplished display as Ronny Deila’s side booked their passage to the play-off round with a 1-0 aggregate win over FK Qarabag on Wednesday evening.
The Scottish champions will be paired with one of five sides in Friday’s draw – Partizan Belgrade, Malmo, Astana from Kazakhstan, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Skenderbeu, the Albanian champions, are all possible opponents – but Walker believes Celtic have the ability to make the group stages whoever they have to face.
Speaking to Sky Sports News HQ the former Celtic striker said: “I think they have got a great chance. They are a far better side now than they were at the same stage last season. I think when you have got players like Craig Gordon, Dedryck Boyata and Van Dijk in the form that they are showing it augurs well.
“Celtic have shown they are capable of scoring goals anywhere but I think the key is that they have shown that they are very sound defensively and that gives them a lot of confidence throughout the team.
“I don’t think they will be scared of anyone in the draw. I thought they were very convincing against Qarabag and they were very comfortable. This is a team that is growing together but clearly they have to go through another difficult tie. especially if they are paired with Partizan Belgrade or Malmo. But Van Dijk is still there to try and get them into the group stages, that’s a real boost.”
Van Dijk has been linked with a move to the Premier League for some time and Walker says that Celtic may be tempted to cash in before the transfer window closes.
The Sky Sports pundit said: “There is a desire on the player’s part to go down and play in the Premier League and I don’t know if the carrot of the Champions League will be enough to keep him at the club, if Celtic get there.
“But Celtic will be aware of the fact there is business to be done and remember this is a player who only cost £2.5m when he signed two years ago.
“Celtic have done good business in the past by selling on players that they have bought cheaply – the likes of Gary Hooper and Victor Wanyama spring to mind – and I think that by the end of the transfer window Van Dijk will be playing his football in England somewhere.”