Linfield v Celtic: Bring on the Bhoys... but Hoops' fans frozen out
Linfield are relishing a glamour money-spinning showdown with Celtic in the Champions League but Hoops fans will not be at Windsor Park to watch the first leg.
A 1-0 aggregate win over La Fiorita was enough to book a second qualifying round battle with Brendan Rodgers’ side and the first battle will be in Belfast on Friday, July 14, with a 5pm kick-off.
Celtic stated they would not take supporters to Windsor Park because of safety worries and last night the Blues said the match would be all-ticket and “no tickets will be made available to away fans for this fixture”.
Linfield will pocket around £1m from the showdown in Uefa prize money, gate receipts, television revenue, advertising and merchandising.
The second leg is pencilled in for Wednesday, July 19 with Linfield hopeful their fans will be able to travel in significant numbers.
Security concerns around the tie led to the first encounter being pushed back from July 11 or 12 but the absence of Celtic fans casts a shadow over the eagerly-anticipated fixture, which is expected to be broadcast live on television.
Jordan Stewart’s dramatic winner at Windsor Park last week proved decisive as a goalless draw in San Marino set up the mouthwatering battle between Northern Ireland’s and Scotland’s finest.
Last night’s game at the Stadio Igor Crescentini was a forgettable affair but Linfield got the result they needed.
Blues boss David Healy said: “Celtic are a fantastic football club and they have earned the right to be here with what they achieved last season.
“Brendan (Rodgers) is a top class manager and we will certainly have our work cut out against them but it is one these players should relish as they will probably never play Celtic again in the Champions League.
“We will be full of hope, prepared and hopefully give them a right good game.
“I’m chuffed for the players and fans, it is, remember, a football match and Belfast and Windsor Park has hosted big games in the past and I don’t see why it shouldn’t be any different this time.
“The players have worked their socks off and I hope the Linfield fans aren’t negative. No-one has a divine right to win or roll over teams but we’ve done a professional job and we’re through to play Celtic.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital