Qualify against the Kazakh champions and the under-19 players at Lennoxtown will benefit from an exclusive invitation to the inaugural running of the UEFA Youth League. Fail to do so, and with last week's news that the NextGen Series is to be suspended for at least a year, the most exacting challenge the club's youngsters will face is 12 months of humdrum Under-20 league and SFA Youth Cup matches, with perhaps the odd development friendly with a Barclays Premier League side thrown in.
Compared to the all-singing, all-dancing UEFA Youth League, that would understandably seem like the booby prize. Exposing Celtic's young players to quality opposition is a prerequisite in convincing Neil Lennon of their suitability for first-team duties and, short of loan spells at other top-flight clubs, nowhere will the standard be greater than in the UEFA Youth League.
When the draw for the Champions League group stages is made in Monaco on August 29, the pools drawn will also apply to the new blue riband event for continental youth football - assuming, that is, none of the 32 clubs decline the invite due to the relatively severe cost and logistical implications of entry. Should such an eventuality occur, the tournament's regulations say only that "replacement criteria will be defined by UEFA and communicated by a circular letter".
To date, however, none of the 22 confirmed entrants have indicated that they will withdraw, with either Celtic or Shakhter to join them when the winner of their tie is known. Each participating club must submit a list of 20 players, born on or after January 1, 1995 by September 3 - which in Celtic's case includes the likes of promising defender Stuart Findlay, winger Paul McMullan and striker Denny Johnstone - with any player who also plays three matches in either the Champions League or Europa League automatically becoming exempt from participation.
The big idea in all this is that matches should be played in close proximity to their corresponding Champions League matches, indeed the regulations insist that venues can be "no longer than 45-minute bus drive from the venue". Much like its more established counterpart, the eight group winners and eight runners up from the group stage of the Youth League then go through to a knockout phase from February onwards, playing in a series of single matches rather than two-legged affairs. The semi-finals and final will be played at the same neutral venue, which is also still to be confirmed, with a trophy named after former UEFA president Lennart Johannson awarded to the victors.
Although the co-founders of the NextGen Series, Mark Warburton and Justin Andrews, had sworn blind that their brainchild would continue into 2013/14 and beyond, going up against UEFA clearly affected the viability of their competition and it was somehow inevitable when they announced they would suspend for a year due to lack of funding. Lack of willing clubs was not the problem since there is a waiting list of other big European clubs keen to participate.
Sources at the competition privately despair, too, that with so much funding supposedly earmarked for youth development at cash-rich organisations such as the FA, UEFA and FIFA, a tournament specifically designed "to assist with the development of Europe's elite players" effectively failed through lack of investment, while its replacement does not actually adhere to the cherished principles of "best v best". The UEFA Youth League, for instance, contains no place for Aston Villa, who won last season's NextGen title, while beaten finalists Chelsea, who can field Scottish-Somali youngster Islam Feruz again this season, do make the grade. "Just because your first team is brilliant," as one source said, "it doesn't automatically follow that your youth team is brilliant."
Come next spring, the NextGen Series may yet return, perhaps resembling a youth version of the Europa League. If events in Astana on Tuesday afternoon are any guide, few teams may be hoping for its return more than Celtic.