Samaras not fazed by poor pre-season

Celtic striker Georgios Samaras is confident his side can snap their poor start to the pre-season with a win in the first leg of their Champions League qualifier against Cliftonville on Wednesday.

The Hoops lost all four of their friendlies during a tour of Germany and Austria, with a 6-2 defeat at the hands of Greuther Furth raising questions over the depth in Neil Lennon's squad.

Celtic begin their qualifying campaign against the Northern Irish champions in Belfast and Samaras insists that his side benefited from their pre-season trip, despite the disappointing results.

"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."

Cliftonville's home ground advantage could prove the difference, with the artificial pitch at the Solitude providing an unwanted obstacle for Samaras.

"I don't like these pitches, to be honest," he added. "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 articial surface, then it would be a serious problem because I don't really like it."

Information from the Press Association was used in this report.