MIKAEL LUSTIG has admitted that Celtic will still feel off the pace as they head into one of the biggest games of their season next week.
The Parkhead side have had a disappointing pre-season and as they prepare to take on HJK Helsinki on Wednesday night in the third round Uefa Champions League qualifier there is a fear that they could be caught cold.
The Finns are midway through their campaign and Lustig knows that it will be tough for Celtic to hit the level required to progress towards the group stage.
"To be honest, I don't think we are going to be in our best shape in a week," said the Swedish defender. "But we will be better than we are now. I think we can get through without being at our absolute best, but you cannot have that attitude in your mind.
"You must try and produce your best. We know Helsinki are going to fight so we need to fight more. People always say it's better to start away but we haven't had a long pre-season. So it's probably good we start at home.
"I think the fans can give us an extra push. When you are tired, the effect of the crowd can be un-believable and make you run more.
"They are probably in their best shape now. But we have one week more. I don't think we'll train as hard as we have done so I think we will have more power in our legs next Wednesday."
The significant carrot of the Champions League is a major incentive for players. And with no Old Firm games this term the unique excitement that the competition brings would be welcomed by players and fans.
"If you ask any player in the world they would all say the same thing: It's these kind of games you want to play in," said Lustig.
"It's these kind of games in which you can be a hero. That's the way we need to look at it.
"The possibility of playing in the Champions League here had a lot to do with my decision to sign.
"People always told me that the atmospheres in the Old Firm game and Champions League nights were unbelievable."