Zenit St Petersburg boss Roberto Mancini has admitted that the Europa League last 32 tie between his team and Celtic will be “very tough”.
As quoted by the Daily Record, the former Manchester City manager believes that the first leg in the tie – to be played at Celtic Park on the 15th of February – could be pivotal.
“We’ve got a very tough opponent, Celtic are a really good team that regularly play in the UEFA Champions League.
“The first leg away will decide a lot.”
The former Italian international also discussed how the Russian Premier League winter break could affect the game, as Zenit won’t have played a competitive game for eight weeks before they travel to Glasgow.
“It’s hard to say. We will play with them in three months and during this time very much can change.”
Mancini was in charge of Celtic’s opponents the last time the Hoops played in Europe after Christmas, his Inter side defeating Ronny Deila’s side 4-3 on aggregate in the 2015 Europa League.
The forthcoming tie is the first ever between the sides, although Celtic do have a decent record against Russian teams in recent years, including defeating Spartak Moscow twice in the Champions League group stage in 2012.
Before the Europa League returns, the Celts have a busy domestic schedule to navigate, beginning with the upcoming match against Hamilton.
The Hoops will be looking to maintain their five point lead – with a game in hand – over Rangers and Aberdeen at the top of the Scottish Premiership table.