Linfield and Celtic discuss possible July 13 Champions League qualifier

Linfield players celebrate winning last season's Irish League title
Linfield players celebrate winning last season's Irish League title

A potential Champions League qualifying match between Linfield and Celtic scheduled for July 11 could be switched to July 13 following talks between the two clubs and the PSNI.

Linfield must first negotiate a two-leg tie with San Marino minnows La Fiorita to earn the right to face the Scottish champions, but contingency plans are being put in place for what would be a powder keg clash in Belfast.

Uefa has scheduled the winners of the Linfield v La Fiorita game to host Celtic on either July 11 or July 12 in line with the other matches taking place across Europe.

However, the prospect of bringing thousands of Celtic fans to Windsor Park at the height of the Orange celebrations raised concerns over security.

Police chiefs are holding talks on Thursday morning with representatives of both Linfield and Celtic to reach a consensus on a suitable date and time for the fixture if the Blues progress to the second round.

Linfield officials are expected to reject any suggestion of playing the first leg at Celtic Park – fearing a heavy defeat could render the tie over as a contest by the time Celtic come to Belfast for the second leg a week later.

Linfield’s first game against La Fiorita is scheduled to take place next Wednesday (28th) with the second leg in San Marino on July 4.

Should Linfield progress as expected, the club will be obliged under Uefa’s ticket allocation rules to make at least 10% of Windsor Park’s 18,000 seats available to the away supporters.

One option being considered by the club is to make the top tier of the North Stand available to 4,000 Celtic fans with the bottom tier remaining empty.

Some Celtic fans’ websites are reporting that the club is not expected to organise any official trips to Belfast for the game.

Linfield has never played Celtic in the Blues’ 131-year history and could make up to £1 million from the glamour tie through the sale of television rights, ticket sales, merchandising and advertising, should they overcome La Fiorita.