Kazaks cool on upsetting Celtic in Champions League qualifier

Viktor Kumykov leads his team out for a practice session at the Astana Arena

Champions League play-off round, first-leg

Venue:
Astana Arena
Date:
Tuesday, 20 August
Kick-off:
16:00 BST
Coverage:
BBC Radio Scotland and live text commentary on BBC Sport website.

Head coach Viktor Kumykov says Shakhter Karagandy are huge underdogs against Celtic in the final round of Champions League qualifying.

No team from Kazakhstan has ever reached the group stages, while Celtic made it to the final 16 last season.

"We are students and they are teachers," said Kumykov.

"We recognise that Celtic are more experienced and stronger than us. But football is illogical and you cannot be sure about anything."

The Russian manager also thinks the whole of Kazakhstan will behind his team for Tuesday's first-leg at the Astana Arena.

"We believe the supporters are very important in this game," he said.

"We think there will be many supporters there, not only from Karaganda and Astana but from other parts of the country and we believe and hope the whole nation will be behind us."

Shakhter disposed of Belarusian side BATE Borisov in the second qualifying round before knocking out Skenderbeu of Albania.

Kumykov, who rested most of his key players at the weekend, has studied Celtic and anticipates a physical encounter on the artificial pitch, which is 114 miles away from their home stadium.

"Celtic play aggressively so we expect it to be a very tough game," he added.

"In football, the strongest side does not always win and there are many examples of that, even in the Champions League," he added.

"We have watched all their European games, the game against Aberdeen and the friendly against Liverpool.

"They are a very good side, with very good players.

"We are newcomers to the Champions League, Celtic is a very experienced club and are former champions of Europe."

The visiting media were taken aback by the revelation that the Kazakhstan club had again killed a sheep in order to bring them good luck.

The sacrifice took place at the stadium before the players trained but Kumykov played it down.

"This is a play-off round and we decided not to break this tradition," he explained.

"It is quite important for us. I would not like to disclose in detail."

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