After losing the second leg against Salzburg in last season’s Champions League 3rd qualifying round, Qarabag eliminated Twente Enschede on away goals before having a good Europa League group stage.
Draws home and away to Saint Etienne, a home draw against Inter after a two goal defeat in the San Siro, and a win and a loss against Dnipro is enough form to suggest Celtic have a match on their hands.
On the positive side, Qarabag are also preseason, play on grass and Baku, their home city, is four hours ahead of Glasgow, so they will have a small jetlag adjustment to make for Wednesday’s game. The final whistle will go after 1:30 in the morning Baku time. Players find the latter part of any big game tiring, more so early in the season, so we have to push hard late in this game. Qarabag will be vulnerable as concentration wanes and legs get heavy.
This tie feels very much like the Shakhter Karagandy play-off tie two years ago. Shakhter arrived with a solid two goal lead, but an impassioned Celtic Park pushed us over the line. A similar intensity will be required on and off the field on Wednesday.
What’s our chances? Not sure, but we’ve a serious challenge on our hands.