Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Celtic's hallowed turf holds no fear for Cliftonville, says Breslin

breslin wants to put on a show at home of the hoops

PACEMAKER BELFAST   17/07/2013 Cliftonville v Celtic
Champions League football at Solitude in Belfast.
Celtic's fans pictured during this evenings game in North Belfast.
Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
Cliftonville v Celtic, Champions League 2nd Qual, 1st Leg game at Solitude, Belfast
PACEMAKER BELFAST   17/07/2013 Cliftonville v Celtic
Champions League football at Solitude in Belfast.
Cliftonville's fans pictured arriving for this evenings game in North Belfast.
Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
Cliftonville v Celtic, Champions League 2nd Qual, 1st Leg game at Solitude, Belfast
Cliftonville v Celtic,  Champions League 2nd Qual, 1st Leg game at Solitude, Belfast
Cliftonville v Celtic, Champions League 2nd Qual, 1st Leg game at Solitude, Belfast

Tommy Breslin says his players have no intention of being lambs to the slaughter at Parkhead tonight (7.45pm).

Cliftonville resume Champions League hostilities with Celtic trailing 3-0 from the first leg – but this time the Reds are at Celtic Park where Europe's big guns, including Barcelona, have been put to the sword.

First leg goals from Mikael Lustig, Georgios Samaras and James Forrest have given Neil Lennon's side a healthy lead going into the rematch (7.45pm).

Breslin's boys will relish playing on the Parkhead surface in front of 30,000 fans including 1,500 members of the Red Army but Celtic are looking to finish the job in the same professional manner in which they started it.

The Solitude supremo knows a heavy defeat may be on the horizon but he says his players aren't at Celtic Park just to make up the numbers.

"We are over here to frustrate Celtic because we know it is going to be a hard game," said Breslin.

"We will try and give a good account of ourselves and it will be the same gameplan as last week.

"In reality, it probably is about damage limitation but we are not here to roll over, see the sights and stay in a nice hotel.

"I don't think there has ever been any pressure on us.

"We are a part-time club and we are coming up against a side who were in the last 16 of the Champions League.

"I will be very proud going out there but I don't want to be on the back end of a drubbing.

"And that could be a possibility. We will prepare well and give a good account of ourselves which is what would constutute a success for me.

"We could have parked the bus in the first leg and it would have been a very dull game.

"But we are renowned for going out to try and play football which is what we will be going out to do.

"We could have been away in Poland or Lithuania and it wouldn't have been as glamorous or meant as much for the players and the club."

Elfsborg are the likely opponents for the winners in the third qualifying round, with the Swedish champions travelling to Latvia with a 7-1 lead over Daugava Daugavpils.

Cliftonville skipper George McMullan knows the tie is virtually done and dusted but he's ready for another massive test.

"It will be tough to break them down but we will be trying our hardest to do that," said McMullan.

"We always expected the gulf and their quality to be there but their pre-season form gave us a glimmer of a chance of an off night.

"They were very professional and to be fair they gave us a lot of respect and they were brilliant.

"We only train twice a week and there was probably 80 to 90 per cent of our side who were working to 5pm last Wednesday.

"We don't get as good preparation as we should but we have had a couple of great days having arrived on Sunday.

"We are living the lives of professionals so hopefully it is one the boys will react to and give a better performance.

"This is a chance for our players to shine on the big stage and we have players who have grown up supporting Celtic and wil be motivated to do that."

The right-back looked on in awe as Celtic strutted their stuff at Solitude.

"You watch them on TV and they don't look as quick on TV as they are in real life," he added.

"Once they get the ball down and have a turn of pace, it is frightening.

"They are quality on the ball. It is a different level and I have nothing but admiration and respect for the quality and the way Celtic played.

"As much of a nightmare it is, they are good nightmares. You watch the Champions League every year and you never expect to come to Parkhead to play Celtic."

Meanwhile, Reds coach Gerard Lyttle has warned the players to expect a "scary atmosphere" at Parkhead – and he should know.

Lyttle, along with striker Diarmuid O'Carroll, are the only two members of the Cliftonville travelling party who have gone into battle on the Hoops' famous surface.

The former Solitude ace was signed by Lou Macari in 1994 and spend three-and-a-half enjoyable years at the club despite failing to make a first team breakthrough.

He did though play in front of 37,000 at Ibrox against a Rangers reserve side that included Andy Goram and Gennaro Gattuso. Lyttle and team-mate John Convery were sent off in that fixture but it was played in an atmosphere the Reds players will experience tonight.

"The fans really get behind the team at Parkhead and the atmosphere is electric, it is even scary," said the former Peterborough favourite.

"They are just a difficult team to play against when they have that 12th man that the crowd gives them and the best sides in Europe, including Barcelona, have discovered that."

Lyttle is confident Breslin's battlers will not suffer stage fright.

"It's a once in a lifetime expereince for the boys and they will enjoy it," he added.

"It's a big thing for all of us as many of these Celtic players would be our heroes. But when the first whistle goes there is no hero worship, our guys give it their all and they did that in the first leg."

Lyttle enjoying cathing up with Hoops first team coach Danny McGrain who is the only member of staff still around since his days at Parkhead.

"Danny was one of my many coaches when I was younger and I had a great conversation with him," he added. "He hasn't aged a bit and I was just honoured to get advice from such an unbelievable player."

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