CHAMPIONS’ LEAGUE: Alternative date on the table if Linfield can set up Celtic tie

Linfield manager David Healy. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Linfield manager David Healy. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

It looks as though Linfield could be playing Celtic at Windsor Park in a Champions’ League qualifier on July 11 - IF the Blues get past San Marino’s La Fiorita, and security officials agree.

The Scottish giants lie in wait for David Healy’s side following Monday’s European draws.

The Blues were paired with San Marino champions La Fiorita in the first part of the draw in Nyon.

But that was blown out of the water with the news Brendan Rodgers’ team would take on the winners in the second round.

Representatives of both sides held discussions about the logistics of hosting such a huge tie in Belfast at the height of the marching season.

July 12 was immediately ruled out, with the clubs agreeing in principle to an early kick-off on July 11 provided the Police Service of Northern Ireland agree to the details.

“From a football point of view it is fantastic,” said Linfield chairman Roy McGivern. “Obviously we have a two-legged tie against La Fiorita first and we won’t get ahead of ourselves, but with the second qualifying round so soon after, it is vital be start thinking about arrangements now for a potential blockbuster tie.

“We’ve also had a chat with UEFA and we had ruled out July 12 for obvious reasons, purely from a practical point of view.

“Our preference is to play the home leg first, for financial reasons that’s obvious the best thing for us.

“At this stage the first-leg would be on July 11, potentially with an early kick-off but there are discussions going on at home now with the PSNI to see how that would be managed.

“That is the preferred option at the moment but there have been no discussions about switching the games at all.

“Celtic are relaxed about it and they seem happy enough to play in Belfast on July 11.

“And I’m sure we’ll be able to bring a big crowd to Glasgow, which would be a trip of a lifetime for our fans, just as it was for Cliftonville a few years ago.”

Not only is it a mouth-watering tie, but it also is a potential money-spinner for the Blues.

Cliftonville’s Champions’ League clashes with Celtic also brought a television deal four years ago and Linfield could expect a similar deal.

“I’m sure a live TV deal will be discussed, too,” said McGivern. “I don’t remember the last time one of our European ties was on live.

“It really is a terrific draw.

“We have two very important games before a potential tie with Celtic but it is the best draw would could have hoped for.

“They were the top team in the draw, they’ve had a tremendous season and, of course, there is the Brendan Rodgers factor, too. It’s incredible.”