Celtic FC manager Gordon Strachan hopes the experience of reaching last season's UEFA Champions League knockout rounds, together with the hunger of his new signings, will be enough to take them past FC Spartak Moskva.
The Scottish title-holders came away from Moscow with a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their third qualifying round tie a fortnight ago and are in a confident mood following their 5-0 demolition of Heart of Midlothian FC on Saturday. "It's another chance to get more experience for our young side," said Strachan, who will be without injured striker Kenny Miller. "Guys like [Stephen] McManus grew up in this competition last season and now others like [Scott] Brown, [Massimo] Donati and [Chris] Killen are all hungry to taste the group stage. However, we are facing a good side. Spartak like to play expansive football and if it works out like that, it will be a cracker."
One of Strachan's newcomers is Australian international Scott McDonald; having lived the excitement of European nights at Celtic Park as a supporter, the former Motherwell FC forward hopes to mark his European home debut with his first goal for the club. "It will be my first European home game and I am hoping it will be a special occasion," McDonald told uefa.com. "We will go out to score goals and not sit back for a 0-0 draw. It's been frustrating not to score so far and it would be nice to open my account against Spartak if selected."
Spartak go into the game having suffered their first defeat since Stanislav Cherchesov's June appointment. Saturday's 3-1 loss at FC Rubin Kazan reduced their Russian Premier-Liga lead over FC Zenit St. Peterburg from five points to two with eight matches to go. As for Wednesday's encounter, Cherchesov has striker Nikita Bazhenov and Brazilian defender Geder back from the injuries that kept them out of the first leg, with Artem Dzyuba also available after missing Saturday's match. Defender Martin Jiránek and midfielder Serghei Covalciuc remain sidelined, however.
In contrast to McDonald, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Spartak's goalscorer in Moscow, expects another stubborn Celtic display. "Celtic are a strange team," he said. "I don't know if they wanted to play football – they stayed back and just defended for 90 minutes. The only one who really played was Shunsuke Nakamura. Still, they had two chances and almost won the match. We have to thank Stipe Pletikosa who saved us in the end. Celtic are happy with the score, so I'm sure they won't attack in numbers and will try to defend their advantage. It'll be very hard for us but we have to win. The match in Moscow showed that we are stronger."
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