Linfield's Jamie Mulgrew ready for the biggest match of his life against Celtic
LINFIELD hero Jamie Mulgrew has told his team-mates that taking on Celtic in the Champions League will be the biggest test they have ever faced.
The Bhoys are in town today in preparation for tomorrow's first leg, second qualifying round clash at Windsor Park and arrive as huge favourites to cruise through against the Irish League outfit.
Rangers fan Mulgrew is an avid watcher of Scottish football and despite his allegiances to the Ibrox men has great admiration for Hoops boss Brendan Rodgers, who led Celtic to a treble last term, and captain Scott Brown.
Mulgrew will come face to face with Brown in midfield and is relishing the contests, both at Windsor and Parkhead.
“The challenge we have in front of us in the next two games is something we'll never have experienced before,” said the Linfield skipper.
“We're up against a top quality team and manager. No one managed to beat Celtic last season. They were the Invincibles in Scotland last season and will be looking to repeat that and get into the group stages of the Champions League. The stats are there for all to see so we know how difficult it will be.
“We know we won't have much of the ball so we will have to be well drilled and organised. These games will stand us in good stead for a tough season ahead.”
On a match-up in the middle of the park with Scotland ace Brown, Mulgrew said: “It will be great to face him. He is the captain of Celtic, has won many caps for Scotland and is obviously an excellent player.
“He was at his best last season and will be looking for more of the same.”
Mulgrew is also looking forward to seeing former Liverpool boss Rodgers at Windsor Park.
He said: “I'm into coaching and I've always liked the way his teams play and the way he talks about the game. I've never met him but it will be nice to see him over these two games and shake his hand.
“I'm told he still keeps in contact with guys he grew up with and people that coached him in Northern Ireland. He has never forgotten about them and I think that says a lot.
“He is very professional so I'm sure he won't take us lightly. The way he turned things around at Celtic last season was incredible. To go unbeaten throughout a season in domestic football is some achievement.”
Mulgrew has enjoyed big occasions in a superb career, winning two Northern Ireland caps, playing at Ibrox for Linfield in a friendly and leading the Blues to three trophies, including the league and Irish Cup, last season.
There is a sense though that the classy midfielder sees this tie as the biggest of the lot.
“Celtic are like Rangers – a massive, massive club,” he says.
“For us to play Celtic for the first time in our history is fantastic.
“From my point of view I've had the opportunity to go to Ibrox and captain Linfield there and hopefully I will be able to do the same at Parkhead. That would be very special for me and I'm sure the thought of playing there for all our boys will be exactly the same.
“Both games are going to be great to be involved in and it's unlikely we will ever experience them again.
“We all watch Celtic on TV on European nights and everyone says they are extra special so it's fantastic for us to be able to play in a big arena like Parkhead. It's lifetime memories at our level.”