FC Shakhter Karagandy must overcome the formidable obstacle of former European champions Celtic FC if they are to become the first Kazakh side to compete in the group stage.
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FC Shakhter Karagandy have just one hurdle left to overcome in their quest to become the first Kazakh club in the UEFA Champions League – but it is a formidable one in the shape of Celtic FC, former European Cup winners and a regular presence among the continental elite.
• This is the first meeting at either club or national-team level between sides from Kazakhstan and Scotland, and the first time that Shakhter have faced a team of European trophy-winning pedigree.
• Whatever the outcome of the tie, the Kazakh champions can look forward to a historic first European group stage appearance, given that the losing side will advance to the equivalent phase of the UEFA Europa League.
• Shakhter have already raised eyebrows during their run to the play-offs thanks to an unexpected win against FC BATE Borisov in the second qualifying round. Viktor Kumykov's men posted two 1-0 victories over BATE and then got past Albanian title holders KS Skënderbeu in the third qualifying round, winning 3-0 at home before a 3-2 away loss.
• Shakhter can draw additional encouragement from a five-match unbeaten home run in Europe although Celtic have their own causes for confidence. Neil Lennon's team have yet to concede a goal in this season's qualifiers, having beaten Northern Ireland's Cliftonville FC 5-0 on aggregate before edging past IF Elfsborg of Sweden with a 1-0 win over the two legs.
• While Kazakhstan is the 36th different country for Scottish champions Celtic to visit for a UEFA competition fixture, Shakhter have only a short European history, their first taste of continental competition coming in the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 2006.
• The closest Shakhter have come to playing in Scotland until now was a 2011/12 UEFA Europa League second qualifying round tie against Ireland's Saint Patrick's Athletic FC that brought a 2-1 home win followed by a 2-0 defeat in Dublin.
• Celtic have competed in the group stage seven times previously but have had mixed fortunes in UEFA Champions League qualifying down the years. Four times they have negotiated successfully the route to the group stage (2001/02, 2003/04, 2007/08, 2012/13) but five times they have fallen short (1998/99, 2002/03, 2005/06, 2009/10, 2010/11).
• Last season Celtic overcame HJK Helsinki and Helsingborgs IF in qualifying to reach the group stage for the first time since 2008/09. They went on to reach the round of 16 after finishing second in a group containing FC Barcelona, SL Benfica and FC Spartak Moskva, eventually losing 5-0 on aggregate to Juventus.
• In 2005 Celtic lost in the second qualifying round to an MFK Petržalka side who had narrowly escaped elimination against Kazakhstan's FC Kairat Almaty in the previous round.
• Mikael Lustig played in Sweden's 2-0 defeat of Kazakhstan in a FIFA World Cup qualifier in Stockholm last September. Aleksandr Mokin was on the away bench; the nations meet again in Astana on 10 September.
• Giorgios Samaras played for Greece in a 2-1 UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying win against Yevgeni Tarasov's Kazakhstan in Almaty in September 2005. He later featured as a goalscoring substitute when Greece beat Kazakhstan 2-0 in the Cyprus International Football Tournament in March 2006. Maksat Bayzhanov played in the first half for Kazahstan but did not share the field with Samaras, who only came on after half-time.
• Beram Kayal helped Maccabi Haifa FC to a memorable victory against FC Aktobe in the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round in 2009/10. After a 0-0 draw in Kazakhstan, Kayal's Haifa trailed 3-0 at home in the return leg before fighting back to win 4-3.