Belfast Telegraph

Celtic will pose biggest challenge Linfield have ever faced: Mulgrew


By Steven Beacom

Jamie Mulgrew has admitted that the Linfield players are in for the test of their lives when they take on Celtic in the Champions League.

The Blues captain has already skippered the club in a friendly at Ibrox against Rangers and is relishing the prospect of leading the team out at Parkhead on July 19 in the second round qualifying tie.

First though comes a date with Ulsterman Brendan Rodgers' side in the opening leg at Windsor Park next Friday with a 5pm start.

Mulgrew was proud to captain Linfield to a domestic treble last season. Celtic also collected three trophies in Scotland, going unbeaten through the entire campaign.

"I think the test we're going to be given, the challenge we're going to have in front of us in the next two games, is something we'll never have experienced before in our lives," said Mulgrew.

"No one managed to beat Celtic last year and now we're up against a top quality team and manager.

"The stats are there for all to see about how difficult and challenging the next two games will be.

"I think we've got to look at them as games where we won't have much of the ball. We'll have to be well drilled and well organised but I think it will stand us in good stead for a difficult season ahead.

"No matter what happens when you get through the first qualifying round, you're always going to be up against great quality, better quality than you're used to in the Irish League.

"From my point of view, I've had the opportunity to go to Ibrox and captain Linfield there and hopefully I will be able to do the same at Parkhead. That would be very special for me. It's going to be a great occasion because it's going to be something we're unlikely to experience again."

Mulgrew adds that Saturday's friendly at home to Scottish Premiership side Hearts will be useful preparation for the visit of the Glasgow giants.

"The Hearts friendly comes at a really good time for us now," stated the midfielder.

"It's going to be a good test and good opportunity to pit our wits against a top quality Scottish Premiership team.

"It will, of course, be good practice for what is ahead of us on July 14 when Celtic come to Windsor Park."

The Linfield skipper adds that the Blues' spirit and the banter between Rangers and Celtic fans at the club will be a key component in the build-up to the tie.

"Our dressing room is great fun with some Rangers and Celtic fans in there," said Mulgrew.

"When we found out that Rangers had been knocked out of Europe after our game, there was a bit of friendly banter.

"We have a really close-knit, tight squad and there is a great team spirit, hence why we won the league last year.

"You don't get success without that. A lot of us socialise with each other.

"We have a mixed squad and there are never any issues."

Belfast Telegraph

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