BRENDAN RODGERS attempted to make light of the impending trip to Kazakhstan to take on Astana in a Champions League qualifier next week following Celtic’s win over Lincoln Red Imps on Wednesday evening.

“Apart from the six hour flight, five hour time difference, the 35 degree heat and the plastic pitch, we should be alright,” he quipped at Parkhead as he looked ahead to the first leg of the third qualifying round.

But don’t be fooled by the Irishman’s irreverence. Rodgers and his back-room team will, as befits a fixture of such huge importance to the Scottish champions, be taking the meeting with Stanimir Stoilov’s side very seriously indeed.

Their opponents showed they have to be respected after qualifying for the group stage of Europe’s premier club competition for the first time in their history last season. They held Galatasaray, Benfica and eventual finalists Atletico Madrid to draws at home.

The match in the 30,000-capacity Astana Arena next Wednesday night, then, promises to be an extremely difficult one for Celtic to negotiate. Nothing, though, will be left to chance by the visitors. Everything possible will be done to enable the Glasgow club to record a result which will enable them to progress to the play-offs.

“We have watched a little bit of them already,” said Chris Davies, the Celtic assistant manager, yesterday. “We were doing work on both them and Zalgiris Vilnius leading up to the second leg. [First-team scout] John McGlynn attended the game on Wednesday in Astana.

“Now it really focuses on Astana, obviously, and we pride ourselves on the organisation and detail we put in when it comes to working on opponents and game plans. We will know everything about them by next week.

“We are trying to create an environment, and in fairness the players are good like this, where there are no excuses. We know about the travel, we know it’s an astroturf pitch, we know these thing.

“But we are trying to focus on the positives and how excited we are to be there. We hoped we would do the job last night, we were confident we would do so and we are in the next round. We are looking to the positives, we are excited to be there and we know we can do a job there.

“Everything is taken care of in terms of the diet, the time difference, the pattern of the day to make sure the players are ready to perform in that moment. You can tailor stuff like that when you travel in terms of what time zone you are on and it can help the players adapt. You can make sure the physical conditions are right.

“The pitch is an astroturf pitch, but we train on it the night before and get a feel for it. Any little one per cent that we can affect that will help us, we’ll do that.”

Davies confirmed that Glenn Driscoll – who, having worked with Rodgers at Liverpool, joined Celtic as their Head of Performance in the summer – would have a key role to play in the coming days as they prepare for the Astana fixture.

“Glen is brilliant at this,” he said. “He has got a lot of experience from Chelsea and Liverpool with the Champions League and the travel. This is his speciality. He is fantastic at this type of thing – planning the travel, planning the time zone so that the players are in the optimum physical condition to perform. He is very good at it.

“It is essential now. The margins are so small. It is the one per cent gain that we are always looking for. Any marginal gains can make the difference and we hope if we make lots of them that they will add up.

“It is about having that competitive advantage. Other teams might not be doing this and we are then it takes us a little bit ahead. The competition is so tight. It is the detail and the organisation is something that we pride ourselves on as a staff and we will always look to do that.”

Davies accepts that the game against Astana will be quite a step up on the match against the Red Imps, a semi-professional team from Gibraltar who fielded policemen, customs officers and a labourer in their starting line-up, but he is confident they can prevail and go through.

“It is clear this team have a good level,” he said. “They were in the Champions League last season and they took points off Atletico Madrid, a top team in the competition. We know it will be a test and they’re different.

“We have to go over to Kazakhstan and make sure that when we come back to Celtic Park that we’re in a good condition and can attack in the second half of the tie. We try not to get too down after a defeat, we try not to get too high after a win. We try to keep that equilibrium, especially over two legs.

“We have to go over there and do a job, hopefully get a win or at least be in a position to come back and win because at Celtic Park, with the fans, the pitch and the atmosphere, it’s incredible. We know we can give anyone a really good game there. It will be tactical, every game is different, and hopefully we can do a job away.”