Europa League: Inverness to tap Celtic's Astra knowledge

Celtic's Scott Brown and Astra's George Florescu
Celtic drew 1-1 last year in Giurgiu

Inverness CT manager John Hughes will use his Celtic contacts as he attempts to navigate a tough Europa League debut for his side.

The Scottish Cup winners have been drawn against Astra Giurgiu, who faced the Premiership champions last season.

After a 2-1 defeat in Glasgow, the sides drew 1-1 in Romania.

Caley Thistle chairman Kenny Cameron said: "No doubt John will be speaking with his close friend and Celtic assistant manager John Collins."

Inverness host Astra on 16 July with the return leg in Romania seven days later.

Those games against Celtic came in the group stage after Astra recorded fine wins over Slovan Liberec and Olympique Lyonnais and they will be favourites to progress again as they enter the competition at the second qualifying round stage against Caley Thistle.

"Astra have been in the Europa League qualifiers in both 2013-14 and 2014-15, so they have a slight advantage in terms of European experience, but I am sure John and the boys will be ready to meet the challenge," Cameron told his club website.

"This is a totally new experience for our club as we make our first-ever appearance in European competition."

Astra, who play in the 8,500-capacity Stadionul Marin Anastasovici in Giurgiu, a city in the south of Romania with a population of 55,000, finished the season fourth in their country's top flight.

Coach Marius Șumudica has already restructured his squad, with several players who faced Celtic no longer at the club.

John Hughes and Caley Thistle celebrate their Scottish Cup win
John Hughes' side defeated Falkirk 2-1 to qualify for Europe for the first time

Gabriel Enache, the Romania midfielder who found the net at Celtic Park, and William De Amorim, the Brazilian midfielder who scored against the Scots in Giurgiu, remain in the squad.

However, midfielder Vincent Laban, who was sent off in the first leg, has joined Larnaca.

Greek midfielder Vasileios Pliatsikas has joined Metalurh Donetsk, defender Joao Carlos Reis Graça is back at Braga after his loan spell, forward Sadat Bukari left for Al-Shoalah, while midfielder and fellow Ghanaian Seidu Yahaya has also left the club.

Astra have raided Romanian rivals Concordia Chiajna to sign defender Ricardo Miguel Martins Alves, winger Alexandru Stan, midfielder Florin Lovin and striker Daniel Constantin Florea.

Romania Under-21 midfielder Iulian Roșu has arrived from Steau Bucuresti, goalkeeper Ionuț Boșneag from Academica Argeș, and central defenders Alexandru Adrian Dandea and Geraldo Alves from Metalul Reșița and Petrolul Ploiesti respectively.

"It is a big advantage that we now know who we play and are not waiting on the results from the first-round games to find out who our opponents are," added Cameron.

"We are positive that Astra will receive a very warm Highland welcome both on and off the park and we look forward to an exciting game on the evening of the 16 July, another historic night for our club and the city of Inverness."

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