Celtic vs Astana – Wednesday 19:45 BT/20:45 CET at Celtic Park, Glasgow.
There is history when Celtic play teams from Kazakhstan. In 2013 Celtic were drawn against Shakhtar Karagandy at the playoff stage of the UEFA Champions League. The Kazakhs shocked the Scots in the first leg winning the match 2-0 at the Astana Arena. What followed was one of the greatest comebacks in Celtic history as the Bhoys rallied back at home beating Shakhtar Karagandy 3-0 at home to advance to the group stage of the Champions League.
It was, however, not the final time that Celtic would meet competition from Kazakhstan Celtic prevailed when the teams met in last season’s third qualifying round. After a 1-1 draw in Kazakhstan Celtic managed a 2-1 at home. Leigh Griffiths scored in both matches, with Moussa Dembélé’s 90th-minute penalty in the second leg proving decisive.
Moussa Dembélé has since become the club’s biggest star scoring 32 goals in 49 matches for Celtic last season. As a result, Dembélé has been linked with a move away from Celtic Park on several occasions, but an injury in the preseason has meant that talks about a move this summer have gone quiet. Fortunately for Astana, the injury will also mean that the star striker will not be available for Celtic in the playoff tie this season.
Even without Dembélé Celtic have continued their dominance over the Scottish Premiership. A 4-1 victory over Heart of Midlothian was followed up with a 5-0 triumph over Kilmarnock FC in the Scottish League Cup as well as a 0-1 victory over Partik Thistle on matchday 2 of the Scottish Premiership. Astana in the meantime are first after matchday 22 of the Kazakhstan Premier League, which is played within the calendar year from March to November. Leading the league by 54 points—seven points more than second placed Kairat Almaty—Astana are favourites to win the league for the fourth time in a row.
Being midseason could give Astana a slight edge over Celtic, but the Bhoys will still be the hands down favourite for this match. But the Scots will have to do well at home before undergoing the 4786km journey from Glasgow to Astana for the return leg. Astana has in the past shown that they are a force at home. Celtic in the meantime tend to struggle in Astana and would, therefore, do well to go on the road with a decisive result in their pockets.
Celtic vs Astana – Player to look out for:
Olivier Ntcham #21 – Celtic FC
Signed for €5 million from Manchester City in July Olivier Ntcham has quickly established himself in Celtic’s midfield. The 21-year-old French midfielder is an athletic player, who can play both as a number eight and a number 10 behind a natural striker. Ntcham joined Manchester City’s academy in 2012 from Le Havre and gained some senior team experience when playing on loan in Italy during the 2015-16 season.
Junior Kabananga #30 – Astana
Junior Kabananga is Astana’s goal guarantee. The 28-year-old striker has scored 14 goals and five assists in 22 games this season for Astana. A tall and athletic striker Kabananga is a classic centre forward who likes to use his strength to break through defensive lines.
Celtic vs Astana – Match Stats
- Celtic are yet to concede in this season’s competition, overcoming Linfield FC in the second qualifying round (2-0 away, 4-0 home) and Rosenborg BK in the third qualifying round (0-0 home, 1-0 away).
- Celtic’s record in six UEFA Champions League playoffs is W3 L3. The victories were against Hapoel Beer-Sheva FC (2016-17), Shakhtar Karagandy (2013-14) and Helsingborgs IF (2012-13); the defeats came against Malmö FF (2015-16), NK Maribor (2014-15) and Arsenal (2009-10).
- Celtic are looking to reach the UEFA Champions League group stage for a tenth time; 12 months ago they beat Hapoel 5-4 on aggregate at this juncture (5-2 home, 0-2 away) but could only finish fourth in their section.
- Celtic have won just one of their last five European home matches (D2 L2).
- This is Astana’s third UEFA Champions League campaign. They went all the way from the second qualifying round to the group stage on their debut in 2015-16.
Futbolgrad’s Prediction: Celtic vs Astana 3-0
Celtic vs Astana – Possible Lineups
Gordon – Tierney, Bitton, Simunović, Lustig – Ntcham, Brown – Sinclair, McGregor, Hayes – Forrest
Manager: Brendan Rodgers
Eric – Shomko, Logvinenko, Postnikov, Shitov – Grahovac, Beysebekov – Muzhikov, Kleinheisler, Twumasi – Kabananga
Manager: Stanimir Stoilov
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and social media junior editor at Bundesliga.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.