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John Kennedy warns Celtic's players of the need for a fast start

Published 20/06/2016

Brendan Rodgers faces a trip to Estonia or Gibraltar
Brendan Rodgers faces a trip to Estonia or Gibraltar

Celtic coach John Kennedy has warned players they will have to hit the ground running in pre-season after landing a potential trip to Estonia in their first Champions League qualifier.

Brendan Rodgers will face Flora Tallinn or Gibraltar's champions, Lincoln Red Imps, in his first competitive test as Celtic manager on July 12-13.

Celtic are clear favourites in the first of a potential three qualifiers but Kennedy will not take any team for granted, including the semi-professional Imps, who have won 13 national titles in a row.

Flora sit fourth in the Estonian league after 17 games of their season.

First-team coach Kennedy said: "At this stage we are going in as favourites but we will make sure we do our homework and make sure we are up to speed, that we are fit and strong.

"We want to be in the Champions League and you can take no chances. With Brendan coming in, he will certainly take it up a notch in terms of how detailed he looks at teams.

"The Estonian team are halfway through their season so pre-season is crucial for us and the time that comes round we are really ready to go."

Lincoln reached the second qualifying round last season in Gibraltar's second campaign in European competition, having lost to HB Torshavn of the Faroes on their debut.

They beat Santa Coloma of Andorra 2-1 on aggregate in their opening fixture before going out 3-0 on aggregate to Danish side Midtjylland, who then featured Celtic defender Erik Sviatchenko.

Their squad includes Lee Casciaro, who scored Gibraltar's first competitive international goal in a 6-1 defeat to Scotland at Hampden last year.

Flora's title success last year sees them return to Europe after a two-year absence. They lost to Albanian side Kukes in the first qualifying round of the Europa League on their last appearance and have only succeeded in one of their 20 encounters in European competition.

Their youth programme is acclaimed in Estonia having produced players including Dundee United striker Henri Anier.

Celtic had trickier potential opponents in the group of unseeded teams in their section of the draw, including Swedish champions IFK Norrkoping and two Irish teams.

Northern Ireland's Premiership champions Crusaders were drawn out against Danish side Copenhagen while Dundalk will face HF Hafnarfjordur of Iceland.

Wales' representatives, The New Saints, begin their campaign in the first round against Tre Penne of San Marino with a match against Apoel of Cyprus on offer for the winners.

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