Belfast Telegraph

David Healy won't allow Linfield to be distracted by potential Celtic showdown

By Steven Beacom

Forget Celtic and focus on beating San Marino outfit SP La Fiorita in the Champions League. That's the message from Linfield manager David Healy to his players after yesterday's draw in Switzerland provided a potential blockbuster tie between the Blues and the Bhoys.

In the first qualifying round, Linfield were paired with the little known San Marino outfit.

Then came the second qualifying round draw, with the winners meeting Brendan Rodgers and his team of Invincibles.

Linfield v Celtic. It was the talk of the town in Belfast, Glasgow and beyond, and not just from a footballing perspective with security issues and dates being discussed at length.

Northern Ireland's record goalscorer Healy would not be drawn into it. Instead, he took the decision to only focus on a tie he knew he would be involved in rather than one which may or may not happen.

And he told his players to do the same with no one allowed to speak about matches at Windsor Park and Parkhead with Celtic which have yet to be confirmed.

Healy was content, however, to discuss San Marino opposition rather than Scottish.

"Out of the possible draws we could have ended up with, this gives us an opportunity to advance," he said. "By no means is it going to be an easy game, but the draw gives us a chance to make it into the second round.

"They are out of season at the moment but we will be getting footage and lots of scouting information on them. We will be very professional and treat them with respect. We will know how they play and everything about our preparation will be right.

"I am looking forward to managing in the Champions League. It is a great opportunity for the players, myself and the rest of the staff to test ourselves against champions from other countries.

"We play next Wednesday against the San Marino side at Windsor Park and it is a game we should relish.

"There will be a lot of interest, but if we do it right I believe we can put in a good performance and get a good result.

"The players proved last season they could deal with intense matches, whereas the season before there were doubts and questions asked about could we cope with the big-game mentality.

"We have proved we can cope with high-pressure games. We showed that in the last few matches of the league. The incentive is there for the club to progress into the second round of the Champions League.

"That's what we are thinking about. We can't afford to think about who we could play in the second round because we have a massive opening round tie to play in first. That's our focus."

• Long-serving Carrick Rangers player Glenn Taggart has announced his retirement.

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