Scott Brown says Celtic are going to lap up Friday night’s Windsor Park clash with Linfield - regardless of whether they have anyone there to cheer them on.
Brendan Rodgers’ side kick-off their Champions League quest against David Healy’s team in Belfast later this week.
The match was originally scheduled to take place on 11/12 July but was moved back to avoid a clash with the annual Orange celebrations.
Celtic chiefs decided the risk of trouble between their fans – who have a history of supporting Irish republicanism – and Linfield’s loyalist faithful was still too great and have turned down their ticket allocation.
Linfield chairman Roy McGivern has admitted he still expects some Celtic supporters to attempt to beat the ticket ban.
Brown knows he and his team-mates are likely to face an intimidating atmosphere but he is still relishing the showdown.
“I’m sure our support will make up for it once we get them at home,” the Scotland midfielder told Celtic TV. “It will be fine, it won’t be a problem for us. It will be enjoyable, that’s for sure.”
Celtic suffered a humiliating slip-up in their opening European qualifier last year as they lost their first-leg clash to Gibraltar minnows Lincoln Red Imps. But Brown reckons there is no chance of a repeat upset this time.
“Everyone is in a better condition this year than what we were last year,” said the captain, who is confident an Achilles problem suffered in Saturday’s 9-0 romp over Shamrock Rovers will not stop him facing the Northern Irish champions.
“We’re looking a lot sharper, we scored nine goals as well in our last game so it shows we’re finding our feet and we’re finding it quickly.
“It’s going to be physical, it’s going to be a battle. They will want to make it a battle because of the way we play football and they’re going to try and stop us and close us down early doors. But, when you look at our squad, we’ve got some great players that can deal with the pressure and have dealt with that kind of pressure in the past.
“The reason why the lads signed here is because they want to play in the Champions League. They want to play the big nights underneath the lights - and for it not to just be a one-off occasion.
“So our aim this season is to get back to the group stages because last season was a great experience for everyone.
“Now we have got a fresh feel about the squad with a couple of new faces, so here’s hoping we can push a wee bit further.”