A game against Union Berlin, from the second tier of German football, four days before our Champions League qualification campaign gets underway sounds like perfect preparation. Union will be better than any opposition we have or will play since defeat in Turin last month and they will be miles ahead of our Champions League second qualifying round opponents.
Having to play six instead of last season’s four games to qualify for the group stage has cost Celtic ‘lucrative’ preseason friendlies. I am sure those charged with the task of balancing the books at Celtic Park (we always pay our bills) will be less than entertained by this, and for many supporters, if feels important that we face Real Madrid or Inter Milan preseason, but the summer time is all about qualifying for the Champions League. There are five weeks between Celtic’s opening qualifying game and the first leg of the play-off round. This extra preparation time should ensure we are fitter and ready.
Legend has it that competitive football in July inevitably leads to a drop in form late in the season but legends are not always reliable. Last year Basel entered Champions League qualification at the same stage Celtic will next season, and next week they become the first Swiss team to play competitive European football in May ever. Apoel Nicosia entered at the same stage in 2011 and became Cyprus’ first qualifier for the Champions League quarter final last year.
The Champions League final of 2014 will be held in Lisbon, the first time the city has hosted Europe’s top game since………. you know when. There are 1730 miles between Berlin and Lisbon, or 10 months, if you prefer. Preparations are already underway.
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