The 2017/18 Champions League season has reached the crucial playoff stage. This is the final tie for teams looking to qualify for the lucrative Champions League group stages.
With prestige and money on the line, these are some of the biggest matches in the European football season and Celtic will meet Astana for a place in the group draw. The loser will drop into the Europa League.
Both Celtic and Astana joined the Champions League at the second qualifying round stage this season and will be eager to win one more tie. The first leg will take place at Celtic Park on the 16th August.
At this stage of the tournament, Celtic are always going to be favourites at home against a team from outside the top leagues in Europe.
In the Champions League this season, Celtic have played two home matches and defeated Linfield 4-0 before being held 0-0 by Rosenborg.
Celtic have proven themselves to be tough to beat on home soil in the Champions League. They suffered two defeats in the group stages to Barcelona and Borussia Monchengladbach last season but that’s their only two losses in eleven home Champions League games.
In the past, Celtic have enjoyed good results at home beating the likes of Ajax, Barcelona, AC Milan, Benfica and Manchester United. The Hoops come in as favourites to win this game at 1.44 with Ladbrokes.
Playing the home leg first is not always easy and Celtic will be wary of conceding an away goal. However, not wanting to concede can have an impact at the other end of the pitch and while Celtic kept a clean sheet at home in the previous round, they failed to score against Rosenborg. The 0-0 draw is on offer at 11.00.
Astana have proven difficult to beat at home but have struggled to win games on the road in the Champions League. They have won only one of their last ten away games in the competition, including a 2-1 loss at Celtic in 2016. Astana have failed to score in six of those games and Celtic to win to nil is available at 2.05.
There have been under 2.5 goals in three of Celtic’s last four home Champions League matches and this could be another tight game. Astana have seen under 2.5 goals in eight of their last ten away Champions League matches and under 2.5 goals can be backed at 1.85. Celtic to win and under 2.5 goals is also on offer at 2/1.
Celtic will be hoping to have increased options in attack for this game, with Leigh Griffiths available if fit. However, Brendan Rodgers will be without Dedryck Boyata and Moussa Dembele who are injured. They have been joined on the treatment table by defender Erik Sviatchenko, who will also miss the game having been ruled out for six weeks.
Expect Astana to turn up at Celtic Park with one man up-front and men behind the ball. Junior Kabananga is expected to lead the line with support from Serikzhan Muzhikov.