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Celtic leaving nothing to chance, insists McGregor

By Gavin McCafferty

Celtic midfielder Callum McGregor believes preparation is everything as the Bhoys get set to continue their Champions League qualifying bid in Kazakhstan.

Brendan Rodgers' men travel to central Asia for the third time in four seasons next week when they take on Astana after overturning a shock 1-0 first-leg deficit against Lincoln Red Imps of Gibraltar at Parkhead to progress on a 3-1 aggregate scoreline.

Although they have previously gone through against Shakhter Karagandy, who played at Astana's stadium, and Qarabag of Azerbaijan, they did not score a goal in either away leg.

Astana made history last year by becoming the first team from their country to reach the Champions League group stages and they were unbeaten at home throughout their campaign.

So McGregor knows Celtic can leave nothing to chance when they fly out on Monday ahead of Wednesday's first-leg of the third qualifying round.

The 23-year-old said: "I know they got to the Champions League last year and by all accounts they did well. We know they are going to be a tough opponent.

"Teams in that sort of area are getting better and obviously they proved that last year by getting to the Champions League.

"Obviously it's far to travel and it's a plastic pitch, so we need to make sure we are ready for that test. We are travelling a couple of days early so we can get there and get a feel for the place.

"You need to try to be ready for everything that comes your way, on the preparation side and the training pitch. Everything needs to be spot-on. There is not much room for error in these qualifiers so we need to do everything we can to be ready for them."

Celtic's preparation sees them host Leicester today in the International Champions Cup, and McGregor believes the test against the English champions is an ideal warm-up.

"You want to keep testing yourself as a player and the more quality opposition that we play against, then the better it will be for us at the stage we are at," he said.

"You want to improve as a player all the time so to play against the best players is the way to do that."

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