Celtic’s quest to reach the holy grail of the Champions’ League group stages takes them into unknown territory to face the Kazakhstan champions Shakhter Karagandy. This will be Celtic’s first time facing opposition from Kazakhstan and the Bhoy’s will be hoping to take an advantage back to fortress Parkhead for the second leg.
Celtic have doubts over the fitness of several first team players. Balde and Stokes are struggling with calf strains, whilst Forrest and summer signing Boerrigter are struggling with ankle injuries, however manager Neil Lennon is hopeful all of the players will be fit enough to take their place in the squad. Shakhter won their league match at the weekend despite leaving out the entirety of their first team, and will be hoping to spring a shock onto Neil Lennon’s men.
The Kazakhstan team have beat BATE, who were in the group stages last year, so should not be treated lightly. Celtic will be hoping that their more impressive European pedigree will stand them in good stead before the match however Neil Lennon remains wary saying “We have more experience than Shakhter but they are at home and have an excellent home record in this campaign.” Celtic go into the game unbeaten so far this season, having beat rivals Aberdeen 2-0 at the weekend.
Celtic captain Scott Brown is hoping for a good performance and has quelled talk of the plastic pitch Karagandy will be using being an issue saying "I don't think it is ideal, but we played on one in Elfsborg in the last round so we know what to expect." The Scottish international would take a point back to Glasgow saying "a draw is as good a result as a win because we will be going back to Celtic park where the atmosphere is exceptional.
In the pre-match conferences, the Shakhter manager joked he would give up smoking if his team knock Celtic out. Neil Lennon claimed he would quit drinking, but that may prove difficult whilst residing in Glasgow. Celtic fans will be hoping the manager will have to avoid champagne if they successfully navigate the tie.