CELTIC step onto the European tightrope against KR Reykjavik at Parkhead this evening – and they know there is no safety net in eight.
One slip and they are history as far as the elite competition is concerned. Hopes of playing in the money-spinning group stages will be obliterated in an instant.
Neil Lennon has drummed it into his players there is no room for error in the crucial first round one-off qualifying encounter against the Iceland title winners.
Simply, the Hoops will pay dearly for a ‘Lincoln Red Imps’ lapse and there will be no way back.
As a matter of fact, the nine-in-a-row champions only have to look back to a double setback last season against Cluj in the Champions League qualifiers and FC Copenhagen in the Europa Cup – two defeats in which the side shed seven goals – to know mishaps can happen on your own doorstep.
Qualification for this campaign’s cash-rich stages are fraught with anxiety with the first three rounds being one-legged ties. If the Hoops are successful this evening their next task will be at home against Sweden’s Djurgardens or Hungary’s Ferencvaros next week.
Left-back Greg Taylor is aware of the pitfalls and, speaking to BT Sport, said: “The onus is on this 90 minutes and you can’t afford to make any mistakes in this game or you’ll be out.
“We know we need to go and get the job done during the 90 minutes.
“The gaffer’s made it clear he wants us to qualify and this is the first chance to progress.
“European football is so important for Celtic. On the whole, the European campaign last season was a success. It was disappointing to go out to Copenhagen.
“We had a poor second-half in the second leg and that was the only dampener on that European campaign.”
Gaffer Lennon admitted he prefers the traditional two-legged ties and added: “It has been exciting, but if you are on the end of a defeat, I am sure it is pretty hard to consume sometimes.
“They have been throwing up a lot of strange and different types of games.
“I much prefer the two-legged ties, but we know what we have to do and we know what lies ahead if we negotiate Reykjavik.”
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