Celtic's Samaras not relishing Solitude's plastic pitch
Georgios Samaras is less than enthused about the prospect of playing on Solitude's plastic pitch when Celtic take on Cliftonville in the first leg of their Champions League qualifier on Wednesday night.
The Hoops striker is not a fan of artificial surfaces and does not mind saying so. However, he will have to put that antipathy to one side as the Scottish champions start their European journey which they hope will at least take them into the group stages of the competition.
"I don't like these pitches, to be honest," said the Greece international. "We played on these pitches a couple of times last year, in Helsinki and in Moscow. It is not like natural grass. It is much harder and you don't have the same balance.
"But it is part of football and you need to give 100 per cent. And if it is for only one game that's fine. But, if a couple of clubs in the SPFL had an artificial surface, then it would be a serious problem because I don't really like it."
Celtic lost all four of their pre-season friendlies during their tour of Germany and Austria and while Samaras is relaxed about those results, he knows the Hoops need to get it right when the competitive action starts against the part-timers from north Belfast.
"Those results don't matter, it is all about finding your fitness and sharpness again and getting ready for the games that matter," he said. "And the game that matters is tonight.
"We need to be really focused and realise that the season starts tonight. If we are not focused and we don't play 100 per cent, then the game will not be easy."
Samaras and the rest of the Celtic side could be in for a rough ride, according to Cliftonville defender Jamie McGovern.
The Hoops will be without some of their top stars such as Gary Hooper, Joe Ledley and Charlie Mulgrew through injury but are still firm favourites to see their way past the Reds.
Asked by a local journalist if there was a temptation to give Neil Lennon's men "the Irish league welcome early on to see if they fancy it," the former Glentoran full-back replied: "Of course. I would say that Cliftonville is known for the football but we can put our foot in where it hurts when it matters.
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