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Football | Champions League

Neil Lennon © Gallo Images

Celtic braced for 'raw' Kazakh clash



Celtic manager Neil Lennon is expecting a "raw, roll the sleeves up and dig in"encounter against Kazakhstan champions Shakhter Karagandy in the first leg of their crucial Champions League play off in Astana on Tuesday.

The Hoops have made the 3 000 mile trip to central Asia to take on a side that have the lowest co-efficient that they could have been drawn against in this round with a place in the lucrative group stage of Europe's elite competition at stake.

Yet the Scottish champions know they will need to be wary of a side that has won back-to-back league titles and who knocked out BATE Borisov -victors over tournament winners Bayern Munich last season - with 1-0 wins home and away.

Celtic boss Lennon admits he knew little of the Kazakhstan side before the draw but, with millions of prize money at stake, says his side will be well prepared before they take to the pitch in Astana.

"It hasn't been too hard to do research. We've got decent footage of them from an earlier qualifier and some from league games as well," Lennon said.

"The most important thing is trying to do as much preparation as we can. But it will be raw, I think, looking at the way they play. It will be physical.

"Looking at them, they don't muck about, they try to get the ball forward quickly and play a pretty British-type game.

"It'll be a different type of football - I don't think it'll be frills or thrills.

"It'll be a bit of roll the sleeves up and dig in at times. But I'm still expecting my footballers to get on the ball and play when we can."

The Hoops will take on Shakhter at the Astana Arena, their European home, after their own stadium was deemed unsuitable by Uefa.

The Kazakh champions go into the match off the back of a victory after a shock 2-1 success at the same stadium at the weekend.

Astana were beaten 2-1 on the artificial surface to move Shakhter to within six points of the leaders, Aktobe, in what has been a stuttering title defence after 22 games in their spring/summer season.

A major weakness this season has been their form on the road with Shakhter collecting just one away league win this campaign.

And Lennon is convinced if they get a positive result on Tuesday his side can finish the job at Parkhead in the return league next Wednesday.

"We know how important this game is. If we get a really positive result I think we'll be okay at home.

"I'm not convinced they travel well so it's important that we play professional football on Tuesday night and we concentrate.

"All our emphasis is going on trying to contain them then trying to nick a goal.

"If we're in the tie coming back then we'll have a chance of qualification.

"They've got to come here and I think home advantage, with everything to play for, we'll be heavy favourites if the tie is tight."

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