NEIL LENNON is preparing for a rollercoaster ride when Celtic kick off their Champions League qualifiers.
The Hoops boss acknowledges UEFA’s decision to make the early rounds of this season’s competition one-off nerve-jangling encounters.
One slip – like Brendan Rodgers’ competitive debut against the minnows of Lincoln Red Imps in the first leg in Gibraltar on July 12 2016 – will bring an abrupt end to ambitions in Europe’s top-flight tourney.
As Parkhead gaffer. Lennon had a harsh introduction to football on this platform after taking over from Tony Mowbray in 2010. He watched in horror as his side collapsed to a 3-0 loss to Sporting Braga in Portugal in the Champions League qualifiers and followed that up by a 4-0 flop against Utrecht ended interest in the Europa League.
Ironically, the Hoops were removed from both competitions last season after getting reasonable results away from home – 1-1 against Cluj in Romania and 1-1 with FC Copenhagen in Denmark. The wheels came off spectacularly in Glasgow with 4-3 and 3-1 defeats respectively.
The Irishman is gearing up for an assault on Europe and the devised path to the two-legged play-off round.
Lennon, speaking to the Daily Record, said: “It’s like everything at the moment – you need to adapt.
“If you’re finding things normal right now, you’re not doing things right. There is no normal at the moment, you’re working day to day and week to week, waiting on government guidelines and advice from the authorities.
“But UEFA have come to a decision and it’s probably the right one in trying to condense it all. If the games are behind closed doors then home advantage is not a massive difference.
“We’ve seen it with the results in the Bundesliga where a lot of the home teams haven’t won. We’ll get them on the pitch and get them adapted to playing at Celtic Park with no fans – which is going to be really strange for them.
“It works both ways. Home advantage is a huge plus for us because of the support we have. I wouldn’t say we’ll be disadvantaged as such, but players love to play in front of big crowds.
“It’s been really strange watching the English games without the supporters and the noise. But it’s something we are going to go with for now.
“It’s a longer pre-season period, so we are not rushing like we are in previous years. In some summers they only get a couple of weeks off.
“But this time we can take a common sense approach to it and get quality work into them. Hopefully, it will benefit us in terms of Europe.
“The domestic season will hopefully have started and hopefully we’ll have a game or two under our belts by the time the qualifiers start.
“We’ll need to plan it a week or so in advance and start looking at getting some matches at some stage. We want them to get used to playing behind closed doors so we might use the stadium for training a few times, as well.
“The preparations will be so important and we might look at going abroad to get games. It might be difficult playing down in England as we’d have to wait until their season is finished before we can even think about arranging games with them.
“But we can look at French and Dutch teams. Their seasons were curtailed and they will be in the same position as ourselves, so that’s something we’ll definitely pursue.”