They now witness the most important match of the season for the Scottish champions. The nights have fair drawn in.
Celtic must knock out Shakhter Karagandy tomorrow to maintain their presence in the Champions League and infuse another season with both sustained interest from their fans and smiles from their accountants. The alternative is another excursion into the Europa League. It may be unfair to cast this tournament as the football equivalent of eternal darkness for the continent's elite but only because it finishes on May 14.
The Champions League is inarguably the delicious sustenance for fans and financiers but Celtic's chances of reaching the group stages have attracted differing verdicts. There seems a notion that the events in Kazakhstan were an aberration and the visitors will be dismissed comfortably. Others suggest there is little evidence for this optimism and that Celtic's jaiket is on the nail marked shoogly.
Celtic, barring a shootout, need to score three goals to advance. In a season that started on July 3 with a series of challenge matches, Celtic have played 15 times and managed this feat once, against Cliftonville in Belfast. They will be consoled, however, that they tend not to lose goals in qualifiers, with Elfsborg and Cliftonville having failed to score in either tie in the earlier rounds. The two conceded in Kazakhstan were the result of dreadful defending.
"Hopefully, we can defend better than we have in the last two games, from set plays," said Joe Ledley yesterday, referring to the mistakes made in Astana and again against Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Saturday. "Last season we were fantastic in that area but this season we haven't been as good. We are looking to put that right."
Shakhter seemed limited in the first leg but Ledley believes that impression is erroneous. "People wrote them off but we had watched some of their highlights and we knew they would be a decent team," he said. "They defend well and are dangerous from set-plays and that is where one of their goals came from," said Ledley, who was culpable for the first goal in Kazakhstan.
He is highly aware of the significance of tomorrow night's match both personally and for Celtic. "It is massive. We need this as a club, players and a team because so much rides on this game. It is the biggest competition in the world."
Asked about their prospects against Shakhter, the Welshman said: "I can't write them off because I thought they did very well against us at home and we lost. We would be disappointed to go out, especially after last season and how well we did, getting to the last 16. It would definitely be one of the low points of my career."
He did not blame the departure of players such as Gary Hooper, Victor Wanyama and Kelvin Wilson for Celtic's predicament. "Obviously, you don't want to see your better players go. But if the money is right and the deal is right then you can understand where the club is coming from," he said. "I still think we've got a fantastic squad. We have brought in some good players and have still kept a lot from last season."
He added: "We played games without Gary last season, including winning against Barcelona. We had other wins without Victor and the same without Kelvin. So there are no excuses. We just need to go out and perform as well as we can. It's going to be difficult, but we are positive."
Celtic first need to recapture their defensive parsimony in qualifying ties, particularly combating the crude weapon that is the long throw into the box. Secondly, they have to score. And fairly often.
Lennon's options in attack may be curtailed because of injury. Anthony Stokes is struggling with a calf injury and Georgios Samaras also has a knock. The Greek striker is vital to Celtic as he has the height and pace to unnerve better defences than that of the Kazakhs. However, Stokes suddenly becomes an extremely important player, if fit. He has scored 49 goals in 110 appearances for Celtic and has the ability to test Shakhter's shaky defence. Tony Watt, young, quick and confident, and Amido Balde, physical but as yet hardly prolific, are the other contenders for a front role as Lennon will opt for 4-4-2 or 4-3-3.
There are two factors that may help Celtic. The first is the cliched assertion about the importance of the fans. This can be overcooked, with a personal favourite being the moment Paulo Maldini of AC Milan was asked about how he would stand up to the fervour of Celtic Park. However, Shakhter may find the atmosphere unsettling. Secondly, they will certainly be discomfited by the travelling and the change in time zones.
It is impossible to predict the result with any confidence. Shakhter were not impressive at home, yet won. Celtic were poor, yet should have scored on several occasions. The bookmakers mark it up 50-50 on who will qualify. This is the equivalent of a toss of a coin. Celtic must call it correctly for the sake of an entire season.