Eboue Kouassi believes Celtic are capable of handing Zenit St Petersburg a rare defeat on home soil tomorrow to complete their passage to the last 16 of the Europa League.
The Scottish champions travel to Russia today for the second leg of their last-32 tie with a narrow 1-0 lead from the first leg in Glasgow last Thursday.
Ivory Coast midfielder Kouassi, one of Celtic’s top performers against Zenit last week, spent two years in the Russian Premier League with Krasnodar before his £3 million move to Brendan Rodgers’ squad in January 2017.
The 20-year-old is aware of Zenit’s strong record at both their former Petrovsky Stadium and the new Krestovsky Stadium they moved into last year. Roberto Mancini’s side have lost just once at home in their last 23 Europa League outings. Even that defeat, 1-0 against Bnei Yehuda in the second leg of their third qualifying round tie this season, came only after they had won 2-0 in the first leg in Israel.
But Kouassi, who saw Krasnodar win 2-0 at Zenit in 2015 while a youth player in Russia, insists Celtic should have no fears about the assignment facing them in St Petersburg. “Zenit are always dangerous at home, they don’t lose a lot of games there,” said Kouassi.
“It’s a good stadium with one of the best atmospheres in Russia.
“But we know what to do, we know how we have to play. I would not say it is difficult for us to go there. If we play as we can do, then we will qualify for the next round.”
Celtic dominated for long spells in the first leg against a lacklustre Zenit side who looked well off the pace in the first competitive fixture since mid-December. Kouassi does not believe they will be able to raise their game significantly at home.
“I don’t think Zenit will be much better than they were in Glasgow,” he added. “I think we will see the same team.
“Last week was a great win for us, a great night for Celtic. It was important we got the win at home. Am I confident of winning in Russia? Yes, I am hopeful. We will fight, we will play our best to get through.
“The key for us to get through in Russia is to fight, as we did in the first leg. We need to keep pressing and pushing. We must attack as we did last week.
“We have to play our normal game. We won’t go there to defend, we will play like we did on Thursday, we must try to score a goal.”