Celtic must overcome Kazakhstan side Shakhter Karagandy if they are to compete in the group stage of this season’s Champions League.
Neil Lennon’s men made the six-hour journey to Astana, the Kazakh capital, on a chartered flight from Dyce Airport on Saturday evening after their 2-0 SPFL win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie earlier in the day.
The Celtic manager had bemoaned the international fixture schedule that led to many of his players returning to Glasgow less than 48 hours before Saturday’s lunch-time fixture in the Granite City.
His squad suffered further disruption less than 12 hours before kick-off when a fire alarm went off at their hotel.
Shakhter also enjoyed a morale-boosting result at the weekend – securing a 2-1 victory over Astana, the second-top team in the league, in the same stadium where they will host Celtic tomorrow.
They are currently third in the Kazakh league table, just three points off the league leaders, and they took the opportunity to rest several key players at the weekend.
For the third consecutive tie in Champions League qualifying, Celtic will play on an artificial surface.
The game is the first ever meeting at either club or national-team level between sides from Kazakhstan and Scotland, and the first time that Shakhter have faced a European trophy winner.
Celtic are favourites to progress over two legs, though that Shakhter knocked out BATE Borisov – victors over eventual Champions League winners Bayern Munich last season – in the second qualifying round of this year’s competition should serve as plenty warning to Lennon and his men.
Whatever the outcome of this two-legged tie, a place in the Europa League is the consolation prize for the losers.
Celtic injury doubts: Derk Boerrigter, , Amido Balde, Anthony Stokes, James Forrest, Scott Brown, Tom Rogic, Mikael Lustig and Efe Ambrose.
Date: Tue 20 August, 2013
Venue: Astana Arena, Kazakhstan
TV channel: ITV 4
Shakhter to win: 23/10
Celtic to win: 5/4