Jul 29, 2015 at 7.45pm UK at ‚ÄčCeltic Park
Celtic
1-0
Qarabag FKQarabag FK
Boyata (82')
Izaguirre (36'), van Dijk (44'), Forrest (92')
FT(HT: 0-0)

Agolli (62')

Preview: Celtic vs. Qarabag FK

Sports Mole looks ahead to the first leg of Celtic's Champions League third-round qualifier against Azerbaijani champions FK Qarabag.

Celtic can take a step closer to the Champions League group stage on Wednesday when they host Azerbaijani champions Qarabag FK for the first leg of their third-round qualifier.

Ronny Deila's side thrashed Stjarnan in the last round, while Qarabag edged past Rudar Pljevlja.


Celtic

Gary Mackay-Steven of Celtic celebrates his goal during the Pre Season Friendly between Celtic and Real Sociedad at St Mirren Park on July 10th, 2015© Getty Images

Scottish champions Celtic will be eager to gain a healthy first-leg advantage when they host Qarabag in the third round of Champions League qualifying on Wednesday.

The Hoops made sure of their progress in the last round thanks to a 6-1 aggregate thumping of Icelandic champions Stjarnan.

However, a 2-0 victory in the first leg of the tie meant that Deila's men experienced some nerves in the second leg, particularly when Stjarnan took the lead.

Celtic have been in solid form so far this summer, winning their last five matches in a row. Their most recent outing ended in a 2-0 friendly win over French side Rennes.

Reaching the group stage of the Champions League is hugely important to Celtic, a fact which was reinforced earlier this week when assistant coach John Collins suggested that defender Virgil van Dijk could leave the club if they fail to make it through to that stage of the competition.

The Bhoys missed out on a place in the Champions League group stage for the first time since 2011 last year as they were knocked out in qualifying by NK Maribor.

Recent form: WW
Recent form (all competitions): LWWWWW


Qarabag FK

Renaud Cohade of Saint-Etienne vies for a ball with Reynaldo and Leroy George of Qarabag FK from Agdam, on September 18, 2014© Getty Images

Azerbaijani champions Qarabag FK travel to Glasgow having edged into the third round of Champions League qualifying with a narrow win over Montenegrin counterparts Rudar Pljevlja.

The two sides drew 0-0 in the first leg before Qarabag earned a decisive 1-0 victory in the return tie at the Tofiq Bahramov Stadium in Baku.

Qarabag have never qualified for the Champions League group stage, though their only previous qualification campaign came last season when they were knocked out in the third round by Salzburg.

Current manager Gurban Gurbanov has been in charge of the side since summer 2008 and enjoys a healthy win-rate of just over 50%. The 43-year-old has guided Qarabag to two league titles and two Azerbaijani Cups during his time at the helm.

Celtic will be keen to contain Brazilian striker Reynaldo, who has scored 46 goals in 93 appearances for Qarabag. His prowess in the final third makes him the club's second highest goalscorer of all time.

Recent form: DW
Recent form (all competitions): LWLDDW


Team News

Kris Commons of Celtic scores the first goal during the UEFA Europa League group D match between Celtic and Dinamo Zagreb at Celtic Park on October 02, 2014© Getty Images

Celtic midfielder Gary Mackay-Steven has been struggling through illness, but the Scotland international is expected to be fit for Wednesday's encounter.

Kris Commons is available again for the hosts after spending a few weeks on the sidelines with a foot injury. However, Charlie Mulgrew will miss out due to a minor ankle problem.

Despite his domestic suspension, summer signing Nadir Ciftci will be eligible for Celtic and is expected to start in attack.

Celtic possible starting lineup:
Gordon; Lustig, Boyata, Ambrose, Izaguirre; Brown, Bitton; Armstrong, Johansen, Mackay-Steven; Ciftci

Qarabag possible starting lineup:
Sehic; Sadiqov, Medvedev, Qarayev, Huseynov; Agolli, El Jadeyaoui, Quintana, Richard; Diniyev, Reynaldo


Head To Head

This will be the first time that the two teams have met.


Sports Mole Logo

We say: Celtic 2-0 Qarabag

Celtic will be the favourites to win the first leg on home turf, but it would not be a surprise if they made things hard for themselves going into the return fixture. The Hoops have won their last five matches, though they have struggled to impress on a consistent level. Qarabag, who have much less to lose, would be satisfied to leave Glasgow with a chance of turning the tie around when they get back to Baku.


Who will triumph in Glasgow on Wednesday?

Celtic
Qarabag FK
Draw
Celtic
73.1%
Qarabag FK
17.6%
Draw
9.3%
Virgil van Dijk of Celtic FC in action during the UEFA Champion League group stage match between AFC Ajax and Celtic FC held on November 6, 2013
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