By Coral Barry
Astana manager Stanimir Stoilov has admitted that Celtic are favourites to progress into the next round of the Champions League, but insisted he knows how the Hoops can be beaten.
Celtic travel to Kazakhstan to face Astana in their third qualifying round for the group stages on Wednesday, and the Hoops will be confident they can come away with a win after their emphatic 3-0 display against the Lincoln Red Imps last week.
Stoilov says he knows his side will have to be at their very best to come through the difficult tie, but revealed he has been studying Celtic and Brendan Rodgers closely so as to find a way past them.
“Tomorrow is going to be a very hard game for us and a very important game,” said Stoilov in the Evening Times. “We are going to play a defensive game.
“We are preparing very well, but we have problems. Our captain had surgery and he will not play for one month. We will try to do our best.
“I know about Celtic. I have enough information. I know the players, I know the coach, I know the history of this club. I know enough about the Scottish champions. Tomorrow we will see what happens.
“To be honest, I know that Celtic play very well and are a very strong team. I know that Celtic are favourites, but we will try as much as we can and we will see what the result is tomorrow.”
Celtic were shocked by the Red Imps in the first leg of the last round when they suffered a 1-0 defeat, but turned on the style at Celtic Park to comfortably win the tie.
Rodgers will have been pleased to have seen such a response to his first defeat as Celtic manager and will be eager to inspire a similar display in his players on Wednesday.
Stoilov knows Celtic will be a different proposition to the team that lost to the Red Imps, but added if his side stay disciplined then they have a chance.
He said: “The main thing for us is discipline. We have to be disciplined tomorrow. We have to play with brave hearts and strong minds. The last thing is the key to success.
“I can’t say anything about Brendan Rodgers. He has worked with the best teams in the world and he has built a smart team and a complete team.”