Celtic will travel to Kazakhstan to face FC Astana on Wednesday in the third round of the UEFA Champions League Qualifiers. After their up and down tie against minnows Lincoln Red Imps in the last qualifying round, Celtic have no room for complacency as they take on the Kazakhstan side.
Astana pose a big challenge to Brendan Rodgers’ side holding a brilliant record at home losing just two of their last 40 games at Astana Arena. Even though most of these results are against weaker teams from the league, they also managed to get through a Champions league group stage with three draws at home vs Atletico Madrid, Benfica and Galatasaray in the past which warrants credit.
Astana will have the momentum with them as they host the Scottish Champions. The hosts are in perfect shape having already played 21 matches in the league and enjoying a seven-point lead at the top. On the other hand, Celtic have just started their season under new manager Rodgers and need time to adjust to the new ways. Astana, therefore, hold a major advantage coming into the game. Here is the predicted Celtic XI against Astana.
Craig Gordon will be the obvious choice under the bar. The big question is that how Rodgers will deal with the ever-increasing injury-crisis at Celtic backline. With Erik Sviatchenko missing the game, Brendan Rodgers is now without five centre-backs for the vitally important confrontation. Long-term crocks Jozo Simunovic and Dedryck Boyata are still missing and emergency stopper Kristoffer Ajer also failed to make the trip to Astana with a hand injury. Kolo Toure was signed on Monday and it will be soon for the Ivorian to feature in a Celtic shirt.
The only solution is to play wasteful Efe Ambrose at the heart of the defence alongside Mikael Lustig who played centre-half in the first-half of the 1-1 draw against Leicester City on Saturday. Saidy Janko and Kieran Tierney will start as the two full-backs.
Nir Bitton is doubtful for the game while Stefan Johansen is definitely out with an injury. Scott Brown will, therefore, feature as the defensive midfielder. Rodgers is likely to opt for a midfield diamond in the game and skipper Brown will act as the base of that. Scott Allan and Callum McGregor will be featuring as the two box to box midfielders behind Patrick Roberts who will start at the tip of the diamond.
Leigh Griffiths and Moussa Dembele will start up front for the Hoops. The duo needs more time to understand each other’s game and then only we can see a deadly partnership up front for the Bhoys.