The qualification rounds of the Champions League are renowned for involving sides who stretch the notion of Europe’s borders, and Celtic will not be thanking UEFA for their seven-hour trip to face Shakhter Karagandy in Astana.
The Kazakh champions have moved the match to the synthetic pitch in the country’s capital, and with three clean sheets in their four Champions League matches so far, it is worth backing a 0-0 draw at 6/1.
Karagandy rested their entire side in their last domestic game but still ran out 2-1 winners playing away at Astana on the pitch they will be using against Celtic.
So far in the qualification rounds they have beaten Albanian side Skenderbeu Korce and Bate Borisov, who recorded a memorable 3-1 win over Bayern Munich in last season’s group stage.
Karagandy won 1-0 in both legs against the Belarussian side, and also kept a clean sheet in a 3-0 win in the home leg against Skenderbeu.
They are 9/1 to beat Celtic 1-0, whilst the Scottish champions can be backed at 6/1 to win by the same scoreline.
Celtic laboured to a 1-0 aggregate win over Elfsborg in the previous round, drawing the away leg 0-0, but will be on a high after a 2-0 win at in-form Aberdeen in their last league outing.
In nine attempts to reach the group stage via the qualification rounds, Celtic have been successful four times, but they have never achieved the feat in consecutive years.
They are 2/7 to beat Karagandy across two legs, while the Kazakh champions are available at a tempting 5/2.
If they can beat Celtic, Karagandy will be the first Kazakh team to make the group stages. This is the closest they have ever come, having previously lost in the second qualification round to St Patrick’s Athletic and Czech side Slovan Liberec.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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