WHEN any team find themselves in a play-off for a Champions League place, every advantage is sought, no matter how small.

On Wednesday night, Celtic will look to make the most of the fact Astana, the Kazakhstan club standing in the way of a crack at the big boys and the best part of £40 million, will kick-off in the dead of night.

Time difference takes its toll and 7.45pm in Glasgow is 2.45am in Astana. That is a lot to deal with and it is no coincidence that a year ago they lost a late goal at Parkhead and a few years back, when Celtic faced Karagandy, the winner came right at the end of that game.

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It’s different this time in that the first leg is in Scotland. The plan, surely, is for Celtic to press home this advantage and next week make the journey towards the edge of Asia with at least a couple of goals scored and none conceded.

It is easier said than done.

Mikael Lustig has been to Kazakhstan many times with both Celtic and Swede and he hopes the Astana players will be let down by their body clocks.

“Obviously it’s always important to get a good result at Celtic Park,” he said. “I think the heat wasn’t that bad the last time we played there. The time difference, I believe, is harder for them to come here to play in the middle of the night.

“I don’t know how they will prepare for that. If they try to stay on Kazakh time, they play at 2am or something like that. I think when we go there we will stay on UK time and it shouldn’t be that bad for us.

“I also think we have come a long way from a year ago. We have a couple of injuries right now but the way we are playing football it is different.

“Maybe us scoring late goals at home to these teams is about fatigue but I hope it’s more that we are a better football team that makes them more and more tired in the legs. The way we are playing right now, I hope can we expose that in them. Last season was such a tight game. We know it’s going to be tough.”

These ties are never simple. Even if Celtic had drawn a club an hour’s flight away, the results would not be far off a toss of a coin.

Celtic’s record in the play-off is pretty good but they have never been straightforward affairs.

“The Champions League play-off games are special,” said Lustig, who has been a fine player on that stage. “Maybe the first rounds are a little bit easy but otherwise when you see last year, the year before that it’s been tight games all the way through.”

Lustig signed for Celtic in late 2011 and has played more than 400 games for the club. A new contact was agreed last season and the Swede can think of no better place to be.

“Even if we don’t reach the Champions League, I think I will still be quite happy as a Celtic player,” he said. “I have never been this long at a club before. The average for a player is maybe two to three years but no, I am grateful to be at such a big club as Celtic and I’ll be here a couple more years.

“From my perspective to be in such a massive club it is all I have dreamed of, to play Champions League, to play in front of 60,000 in the league and everything. It is quite easy why I want to stay.

“In football, if you are not good enough you will maybe just be here for one or two years, if you are really, really good you might go the other way. So, I am maybe somewhere in between!

“I have enjoyed every minute. Everything I dreamed of I have here at Celtic. I am happy. I have two more years to go here so I am not thinking about anything else.”

John Kennedy, the Celtic coach, only got to play in on play-off match because of his injuries and, as luck would have it, that chance came in Moscow when his dodgy knee was asked to twist and turn on an even dodgier surface.

That match came in 2007 against Spartak Moscow, a 1-1 first-leg draw which was a week later settled in Glasgow on a penalty shoot-out. The fact Kennedy risked his health says all you need to know about what the Champions League means to Celtic.

“There was a question mark over whether I was going to play because I’d had my knee injury and it was on astroturf,” recalled Kennedy.

“I remember Gordon Strachan asked me if I wanted to play and I told him of course I did because I couldn’t turn down an opportunity like that. I didn’t want to miss out on a game like that and in the end, it was the right decision because we qualified.

“Would I have played if it was another game? I probably would have because I missed enough football! But that shows the magnitude of these games, you know what it means to everyone.

“The players here know what it’s about and they know what it means to the club and to the fans. You have to block that out, though, and focus on the job in hand.”

One thing you can guarantee over both matches is that it’s going to be nervous. Unless Celtic, as they can do, score a couple of goals early on, it’s going to be edge of the seat stuff.

“It’s tense on the touchline, of course it is, it’s always tense in these games,” said Kennedy. “But what relaxes you is knowing you have done all the preparation, the players know their jobs and they are ready to carry them out.

“That is something the manager does very, very well. When the players step on the pitch, in Europe and in league games here, everyone knows what’s coming.

“I am improving all the time as a coach with him to learn from, he is the full package. You get some people who are field coaches and others who take a back seat and let others get on with it.

“But he does both sides, he knows how to deal with players and he’s first class on the field. In game management he’s excellent, if there is a problem he knows how to fix it instantly. He has been first class since he came in here.”