JAMES Forrest believes playing Linfield at Windsor Park without any Celtic fans in attendance will be far easier than previous Champions League qualifiers.

The Scottish champions will have to take on the winner of the first qualifying round tie between Linfield and La Fiorita of San Marino later this month.

And their Northern Irish counterparts are favourites to go through after winning the first leg 1-0 at home on Wednesday evening.

If the Glasgow club do play in Belfast on July 14 they will not take any tickets for the fixture due to the security concerns of local police.

However, Forrest feels that will still be better than some of the other matches they have had to play in the early rounds of Europe’s premier club competition.

Kazakhstan club Shakter Karagandy were rumoured to have sacrificed a goat before their meeting with Celtic back in 2013 and the winger remembers that being a particularly difficult evening.

“I don’t look at who we might need to face,” he said. “I just take whoever we get. Obviously Linfield still need to get past the team from San Marino so we’ll see who we get. If we get through that one then we’ll just deal with it as it comes.

“If it is Linfield it could be an interesting atmosphere, but it won’t worry the boys. You just need to look at last season to see we played well away against Rangers, in Champions League games and against Be’er Sheva.

“Obviously, it could be a hostile atmosphere if we go to Belfast but the boys know they have enough in the locker to take care of it.

“It will be weird with no fans there as the fans are so important to us. You see it even in away games in the league. There are times when there are more Celtic fans in the ground than home fans. It would be something different, but there is enough character in the squad to cope.

“We’ve played in some different atmospheres before, like Karagandy and Be’er Sheva. They were like nothing we’ve experienced before. I think there was talk about sacrificing a goat before the game against Karagandy. It was just unlike anything I’d experienced.

“There was a lot of noise and every time they crossed the halfway line they cheered like they’d scored a goal. It was constant for 90 minutes. I’d never seen anything like it, but it means you are ready for anything.

“You could say Belfast would be a good tie for us travel-wise and recovery wise. It’s not 40 degrees or on a plastic pitch. But if you get through those are the kind of things you might need to face but hopefully we can have our wits about us and get through.”

Forrest added: “It’s hard. You could argue the most important games of the season are right at the start. Hopefully we can get in and we can have another season like last year.

“The Champions League was a massive boost for the club last year, for the fans, the players, everyone. There is nothing better than the feeling of getting there.

“Once you are there you can look at doing better. It was a tough draw last year and it was always going to be a big ask.”