Linfield could play in front of a 60,000 capacity crowd at Celtic Park for the return leg of their European Champions League qualifying game with the Scottish champions next week.
Celtic announced yesterday that all available tickets for the game had sold out ahead of the first leg being played in Belfast tonight.
The club’s Scottish Premier League season ticket holders are entitled to take their seats for the European encounter – so the actual attendance will be dependant on how many turn up on the night – but the level of pre-match interest indicates a raucous night in Glasgow is on the cards.
Although Linfield has drawn large crowds to local football during its 131 year history, as well as enjoying many memorable nights on the European stage, the July 19 clash with Celtic could overshadow them all in terms of audience and atmosphere. The first leg of the qualifying round tie will be played at Windsor Park with a 5pm kick-off. This will be the first time the two clubs have ever met in a competitive match at senior level.
A statement posted on the Celtic FC website yesterday said: “Following phenomenal demand, tickets for the Invincibles’ UEFA Champions League qualifying second leg against Linfield on Wednesday, July 19 are now all sold out.
“Paradise will be packed for this crucial European tie”.
It will be a fantastic experience for our players to play at such a stadium
Linfield chairman Roy McGivern said he believed a 60,000 crowd would be the largest in the club’s history to the best of his knowledge.
“There is no doubt that if Celtic Park is sold out then it will be one of the biggest crowds we have ever played in front of, so that’s really exciting. We will have somewhere approaching 1,500 of our own fans there and they will make their presence felt I’m sure.
“It will be a fantastic experience for the players to play, not just in a great stadium, but in front of a crowd of that magnitude,” Mr McGivern added.
Celtic declined a Belfast ticket allocation for the club’s legion of fans due to concerns around safety and security. The Glasgow club said it took the decision “following security concerns raised by the Police Service of Northern Ireland”.
In a message posted on Twitter on Wednesday (July 12), the PSNI rejected Celtic’s version of events.
“Contrary to some reports, the decision of Celtic FC not to accept their allocation of ‘away’ tickets for the game against Linfield in Belfast was a decision taken solely by the football club and not by the PSNI,” the police said.
Celtic responded saying: “We are extremely surprised by this statement and the timing of the release. This is clearly not our understanding of the situation and we stand by our statement of 23 June.”