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This is biggest game of my life: Ledley

By Ronnie Esplin

Celtic face losing out on a massive £7.4m windfall if they fail to overturn Shakhter Karagandy's two-goal Champions League lead, but Joe Ledley hopes the pressure situation will inspire the Hoops to another memorable success.

Reaching the group stages promises a huge initial cash injection through prize money, but Neil Lennon's side are perched on a knife-edge following their 2-0 first-leg defeat in Kazakhstan.

Ledley has already tasted the drama of several big European nights in Glasgow's east end after playing a crucial part in Celtic's run to the last 16 last term.

Now he believes the make-or-break climax to this season's qualifying bid will bring out the best in himself and his team-mates.

He said: "This is one of the biggest games of my life – so much is at stake.

"So much depends on this game and there is so much pressure on us. Hopefully we can thrive on it and go from there.

"We want to play in the Champions League, it's a fantastic competition. Last season was one of the best in our careers and hopefully we can qualify again."

In the past, the might of Celtic's 60,000-strong backing from the stands has been enough to close the on-pitch gap with world-class opponents such as AC Milan, Manchester United and Barcelona.

And the pageantry that has come to be known as the hallmark of such occasions at Celtic Park was last week safeguarded when the club reversed plans to break up the controversial Green Brigade group after receiving assurances they would improve their behaviour.

And with the ultras in place, Ledley is convinced the supporters can play their part.

"The fans' role is massive," he said. "They have been brilliant ever since I've been here and I'm sure the fans will be exactly the same against Karagandy.

"The Old Firm is a fantastic atmosphere but when it's the Champions League, I don't think anything can beat it. The day we played Barcelona was one of the greatest moments of my life and the atmosphere was fantastic that night.

"I think the Green Brigade are fantastic. They bring the atmosphere to Celtic Park and without them, it wouldn't be so good.

"My family come up and all they talk about is the Green Brigade."

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