Qarabag v Celtic to go ahead despite pitch – Collins

Celtic assistant manager John Collins has told his players they must adapt their game to deal with Qarabag’s bumpy pitch.

Celtic assistant manager John Collins at Glasgow Airport as his side leave for Azerbaijan. Picture: SNS

Uefa has confirmed Celtic’s Champions League qualifier in Azerbaijan will go ahead as planned despite concerns over the pitch.

A bumpy and barren surface awaits Celtic at the Tofiq Bahramov Stadium in Baku when Ronny Deila’s men defend their 1-0 lead in the third qualifying round of the Champions League.

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Collins admits they might have to be more direct when they play in the 31,000-capacity stadium.

Speaking at Glasgow Airport ahead of the team’s departure for tomorrow’s game, Collins said: “Obviously there’s a little concern at the moment but we will go over there and train on it and check out how it is.

“I got a phone call from security about 15 minutes ago. They are over there just now, and they say it’s not looking good. I don’t think that the game’s going to be in doubt but the pitch is not in a good state.

“They have had extremely warm temperatures. I don’t know if the grass has some kind of disease in it or something, but it doesn’t look good apparently.”

Collins added: “At this level you expect the pitch to be of a good standard, but if it isn’t we will just have to adapt our play.

“If it is bumpy we will have to be a little bit more direct and not pass the ball in our own half, if it’s really bumpy. We will have to adapt.

“It’s not ideal but that’s football. You have got to be able to adapt to different conditions.

“The pitch is the same for both teams first and foremost. They are a footballing team that likes to pass the ball on the grass so it will affect them as much as it affects us.”

Such was the state of the pitch in Azerbaijan that the tie was in doubt but European football’s governing body said yesterday that the game would go ahead.

A Uefa statement read: “There are no plans to change the venue and the match is scheduled to go ahead as planned.”

Leigh Griffiths and Nir Bitton have both travelled but Charlie Mulgrew will miss out with a knee injury.

Griffiths came off early with a calf knock in Celtic’s Ladbrokes Premiership opener against Ross County on Saturday after opening the scoring in the 2-0 victory, while Bitton sat out the game because of an ankle complaint.

“Both are still carrying knocks,” Collins said. “Leigh didn’t train today, he was on the bike, and Nir is the same – but they will be fine for tomorrow’s training. We expect them both to be available.

“Charlie has not travelled.”