After a week of hard training, Celtic take to the field for their first preseason friendly today when they face Portimonense this evening. The Portuguese side finished 15th in the topflight last season, a comfortable 8 points above relegation, although only one spot above the play-offs.
We face the same side on Saturday before flying off to Japan on Sunday, where we have games against Yokohama FM and Gamba Osaka. I am regularly assured that players take care of themselves over the summer much better these days than in the past, but watching preseason never convinces me of this claim.
Few players will get little more than 45 minutes per game Portugal. The trip to Japan will be exhausting. Not only will they have to contend with the flights and time difference, they face teams already 20 games into the J League programme. You can be sure they will return home like the proverbial burst balloon.
The target is to be ready for league kick off against Ross County on 5 August. County already have two friendly games in their legs and have four competitive League Cup ties before facing Celtic. On paper, the league opener is one of the easiest games on the calendar, but we will need to do a lot of the summer’s heavy lifting in the games against Athletic Bilbao and Wolves.