Celtic hopeful of confirming signing before Astana clash

Assistant manager Chris Davies spoke to the media at Lennoxtown. Picture: SNS
Assistant manager Chris Davies spoke to the media at Lennoxtown. Picture: SNS
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Celtic are hopeful of bringing in a player to bolster their squad for next Wednesday’s Champions League qualifier against Astana.

Celtic fly out on Monday to Kazakhstan and assistant manager Chris Davies admits they are closing in on their second major signing of the summer, following Moussa Dembele’s arrival.

The UEFA deadline for new players expires at the end of Thursday but one player can be added afterwards until the end of Tuesday. Celtic have been linked with moves for Aston Villa winger Scott Sinclair and Blackburn defender Shane Duffy.

Davies said: “We’re hopeful of doing something but the most important thing, it’s the right person. Possibly something can be done today (Thursday) but we have the option of the wildcard up until the day before the game, so it gives us a bit of leeway.

“It’s a big enough squad so we want to bring players in that can improve the team.

“We know what we want but it’s got to be the right person and the right deal. These things take a little time.”

Astana clinched their place in the third qualifying round thanks to a late winner against Lithuanian side Zalgiris Vilnius.

The win continued Astana’s unbeaten home record in the Champions League, which helped them reach the group stages last season. They beat Maribor, HJK Helsinki and Apoel to make history and only lost twice in their group, although they finished bottom.

Davies said of Celtic’s opponents: “This team are good. They were in the Champions League last season, they got points off Atletico Madrid, Benfica, Galatasaray at home.

“So we know the challenge but there are no excuses for us. We are a big team and we have got to do a big job. Regardless of where it is, we are looking forward to going and doing a job.”

Celtic have experience of playing in Astana’s stadium, losing 2-0 to Shakhter Karagandy three years ago before overturning the deficit at Parkhead. And, with Astana’s progress last season, there is ample information allowing manager Brendan Rodgers and his backroom team to prepare for their test.

“We will go through a thorough process, like we have done already looking at potential opponents,” Davies said.

“There is no doubt they are a good team, they have some quality in there. But in terms of where we sit against them, we are confident we can do a job.

“We played (Russian team) Anzhi Makhachkala (when Davies and Rodgers were with Liverpool) and they were a very well-funded team. It’s a little bit of the unknown but these days you can get a lot of the information you need.

“We’ve got a really strong scouting network and do a lot of work on the opposition. We’ll be fully ready for them and we will know the level and know what to expect.”

Another challenge is Astana’s artificial surface, along with the travelling and heat.

“You do have to prepare for it,” Davies said. “We always have a plan for these long journeys in terms of the players and their readiness to perform, in terms of the diet, the sleep, the process of the travel. Each minute is taken care of.

“The players are brilliant because they don’t look for excuses, they will get on the flight and we’ll get off and train and get ready for the game. There won’t be a culture of excuses.”

Before then, Leicester visit Parkhead in the International Champions Cup pre-season tournament on Saturday, and several Celtic players are likely to be rested following their 3-0 win over Lincoln Red Imps.

“We have a big pool of players that we can use,” Davies said. “So we’ll put a plan in place that makes sure we are protecting players that we feel are going to be playing for us in the Champions League, but also give some minutes to other players as well.

“We’ll have a plan in place to make sure everyone is getting the right physical condition from the game, and we’ll be able to put on a good performance as well.

“It’s the English champions against the Scottish champions. They are a team that produced a sporting miracle last year.

“They were the top team last year in England so it’s going to be a great measure for our players to go up against them and see where we fit.”

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