STANIMIR STOILOV, it is fair to say, left Celtic Park last Wednesday more than a little shell-shocked as Brendan Rodgers completely out-thought the Astana boss in the first leg of the Champions League play-off round.
Both managers had the experience of the sides meeting in the qualifying round last summer and on that occasion Celtic snatched a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Kazakhstan thanks to a typically opportunistic strike from Leigh Griffths before a last gasp Moussa Dembele penalty kick deep into stoppage time gave Celtic a 2-1 win at Celtic Park to send them through.
A year on and Rodgers’ side had the first leg at home and effectively ended the tie as a contest with even Stoilov reckoning that it’s 99% certain that Celtic are through.
5-0 is a fairly decisive first leg score-line and the Astana boss can think of perhaps only Barcelona as a tie capable of turning that around. They lost 4-0 in Paris last season before thrashing PSG 6-1 when they got them back to their place.
Yet for Astana a 6-1 win would still see them knocked out.
99.99% might be a more accurate percentage then for Stoilov to ponder as he prepares to face Celtic tomorrow afternoon, Celtic Park time.
“Our chances are not so great but anything can happen,” he conceded.
“But to be realistic, Celtic will be going through.
“Celtic can get through the group stages but it depends on who the opponents are after that as to how far they can go.”
He then referenced the 6-1 Barca win against PSG after the 4-0 reversal in Paris.
“Barcelona can do these kind of unreal things – we don’t.
“But 5-0 is the best motivation for our players. We want to play well at home.
“I think tomorrow will be a good match. We will do everything to win the game. We always play to win at home – we don’t want to lose.
“The team is feeling really stressed after last week so we need to try to do much better. We made mistakes in the first game but there was five shots and five goals.
“The team has prepared very well and we will make it a good game.”
Astana are 99% certain to head into the Europa League so all is not lost for Stoilov’s side, although the manager might want to look at his choice of goalkeeper after last week!
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