Celtic were not the only seeds to get a bloody nose in this week’s Champions League play-off round first leg games. Lyon and Real Sociedad looked well matched before the game but Lyon’s 0-2 home defeat suggests the seeds were outclassed.
Austria Vienna were the team I wanted this round but despite indifferent domestic form they upset the odds and beat Dinamo Zagreb 0-2 in Croatia. Perhaps the biggest surprise was Schalke’s 1-1 home draw with Poak Salonika.
Our defeat was, apparently, an historic sporting occasion for a country who are only a decade or so into their relationship with the game. Kazak prime minister, Serik Akhmetov, went into the home dressing room after the game on Tuesday to congratulate Shakhter and bask in the fruits of his sports development policies, but I hear there is trepidation ahead of their trip to Glasgow.
Top Russian TV analyst, Vasily Utkin, predicted, “Celtic will solve all the problems before second game, they will learn what mistakes they did in Astana and they will show their real power. If this happens I’m pretty sure Celtic will go through.
“In the previous round Shakhter beat Albanian champions Skenderbeu 3-0 but in Albania they were down 3-0. They are the team whose emotions are very important. If Celtic start the game well at Celtic Park, with all their songs from the stands and support given by their fans, the players from Karaganda may start the game on their knees.
“Their only chance will be on the counter attack. Whether this will be productive is the question for Celtic. A goal for Shakhter would complicate Celtic’s situation.
“I see Celtic reaching the Champions League group games. They are Champions League quality. Whatever Shakhter will do they are not Champions League quality, at least not yet.”
“This… is a question for Celtic” is the key phrase. Champions League qualification is in our own hands. Beat Shakhter Karagandy by more than 2-0 at home is as good an offer as anyone will get to qualify for the Champions League.
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