Linfield manager David Healy fears his side’s Champions League qualifying tie against Celtic on Friday could turn from a dream into a nightmare.
The Northern Irish champions host Brendan Rodgers’ Hoops in the first leg of their second qualifier on Friday evening, but there will be no travelling fans in attendance, after Celtic refused tickets for safety reasons.
Healy’s part-timers lost 7-0 to Rangers in Jamie Mulgrew’s testimonial last September and the former Gers striker is aware that a far superior Celtic side went unbeaten domestically in 2016/17 on the way to the treble in Scotland.
Speaking at Windsor Park, he said: “People ask if you allow yourself to dream, but you also have in the back of your mind, ‘what if this Celtic team turn up and run you ragged.
“There is every possibility with the quality they have in it so you have to think both ways, ‘what if we do this but what if Celtic turn up and do that?’
“Without saying there is nothing to fear, of course there is.
“I loved having Rangers over. I was a big fan of Jamie even before I came here as manager but I didn’t enjoy his testimonial.
“Our players were rabbits in the headlights, we didn’t perform, we didn’t do anything we talked about.
“Brendan has got Celtic playing in a way that probably Celtic Football Club and Celtic fans expect in general.
“It is a difficult task. We will do what we can for our proud club.”
Mulgrew, a Rangers fan in a dressing room which also contains Hoops supporters, is still traumatised by the Gers thrashing and hopes he is more upbeat following the match against the Scottish champions.
“You only enjoy it if you make a good account of yourselves and hopefully we can,” said the 31-year-old midfielder.
“If we do that we will certainly enjoy it.
“If it ends up the way my testimonial ended up with Rangers then you don’t.”