Scottish giants Celtic are due to face Kazakhstan based outfit FC Astana in the first leg of the Champions League playoffs on 16th August in what promises to be a crunchy fixture. The Celts have kicked off their new season in a scintillating manner as they demolished Heart of Midlothian with a 4-1 triumph and then clinched a 5-0 victory over Kilmarnock in the Scottish League Cup.
Then a 0-1 win against Partick Thistle in their second league fixture of the season at the Firhill Stadium implies that the Bhoys will be going into the game in the European elite competition with a flamboyant momentum. However, Brendan Rodgers isn’t unfamiliar to the animosity which the Kazakhstan league leaders will have on offer, considering that they are leading the top division back home by seven points.
Rodgers’ men erected a strong footing for themselves last season on the domestic soil as under the tutelage of the former Liverpool manager, the Glasgow giants clinched the domestic treble. However, it goes without saying that Celtic would be looking to uplift their performances on the grandest stage and to get into the group stages, they would need to outclass the Blue and Yellows.
We expect Rodgers to put forth a strong side, and here is how we predict the Scottish champions lining up for the crucial fixture:
Dedryck Boyata and Erik Sviatchenko are still out with knee injury, which implies that the Bhoys are anticipated to start the game with the pair of Nir Bitton and Jozo Simunovic at the heart of their defence.
Kieran Tierney is expected to start from the left-back slot and owing to the injury to Cristian Gamboa, Mikael Lustig should get the nod to start from the right-back position. No surprise is expected for the custodian’s role as Craig Gordon is expected to start.
Scott Brown should partner Olivier Ntcham, with the latter likely to be in a riveting mood after scoring the winning goal last weekend against Partick Thistle.
Callum McGregor is likely to be engineered into the no. 10 role, with Scott Sinclair, is anticipated to be put on the left-wing and Jonny Hayes on the right.
Moussa Dembele is still out with a hamstring injury, which implies that Leigh Griffiths might be used up front to cater to the striking needs of the club. Griffiths has had a splendid start to the new season and undoubtedly, he would be pining to ply his trade against Stanimir Stoilov’s troops.
Here is how they might line up:
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