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Celts can repeat dose and hit the big time: Rodgers

By Ronnie Esplin

Boss Brendan Rodgers welcomed the familiarity of recent foes Astana after Celtic were drawn against the Kazakh side in their Champions League play-off.

The Hoops beat the Kazakhstan champions in last season's third qualifying round 3-2 on aggregate.

The fixtures are reversed this year with the first leg at Celtic Park on Wednesday, August 16, and the return six days later.

Rodgers, who confirmed defender Erik Sviatchenko will miss the ties as he will be out "probably up to six weeks" with a medial ligament injury, declared himself "happy" with the pairing.

"The beauty for us on this one is it is not the unknown," said the Ulsterman.

"We played them last year and qualified so we know what it is like out there; hotel, AstroTurf pitch, virtually the same players.

"It will be as tough as last year but we look forward to it and will be ready for it."

The Celtic squad will again have to undertake a seven-hour flight with a five-hour time difference and Rodgers will stick with last year's preparations.

He said: "We stayed on British time because obviously there is the time difference which can really throw you. I have done it in the past, we stayed on British time to keep our body clocks the same."

Celtic begin the defence of their Ladbrokes Premiership title today at home to Hearts, who will have Jon Daly in interim charge following the departure of head coach Ian Cathro.

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