Europa League: Inverness CT face FC Astra

The Scottish Cup winners will face FC Astra. Picture: John Devlin
The Scottish Cup winners will face FC Astra. Picture: John Devlin
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JOHN Hughes admits the John Collins factor could offer a crucial advantage to Inverness Caledonian Thistle as they embark on their first European adventure.

The Highlanders’ historic step into the Europa League will see them host Romanian top-flight club FC Astra on 16 July before an away trip seven days later.

Astra sprang a shock by knocking French side Lyon out of the tournament last year and then faced Celtic in last season’s group stage. They eventually finished bottom of Group D, but proved no pushovers for the Scottish champions, holding them to a 1-1 draw at home and losing narrowly 2-1 in Glasgow. Celtic assistant coach Collins’ knowledge of the Romanian side will be utilised to good effect by his close friend Hughes as the Scottish Cup winners plot a route to the next round.

Hughes, pictured, who was with Collins near Edinburgh yesterday as the draw was made, admitted: “It is an exciting draw – but a very tough one.

“We know all about them. I’m actually sitting here with John Collins now and they were in Celtic’s Europa League group last year.

“So we will get a lot of information and detailed knowledge on them from John. We’ll get the DVDs and get a right good look at them.

“Logistically, it could be a bit of a problem, but talking to John he tells me Celtic stayed in Bucharest and travelled an hour or so down the road to Giurgiu, where they play. That will be good for the fans as they can go and visit a beautiful city like Bucharest, which is just 60 kilometres or so away.

“We’ll just look at how Celtic did it and build our plans around that.

“We know already it is going to be a really tough game. They are a quality team, but it’s one we’re all really looking forward to.”

FC Astra, known as the ‘Black Devils’, finished fourth in their national league last season.

Collins has already given an overview of what Caley Thistle can expect.

Hughes added: “They will be technically very good. They’ll be favourites to win over the two legs and it isgoing to be very difficult.

“John was saying they don’t even play in their home town – they’ve been relocated – so it affects their fan-base.”