READY or not, here they come - the Champions League qualifiers are upon us, and Celtic have no choice but to embrace them.
The month-long preparation is at an end, replaced by the moment of truth on Wednesday when HJK Helsinki hope to make their superior match-fitness advantage tell in the first leg of their third qualifying round showdown.
While Neil Lennon has had the Finnish champions extensively watched since the draw was made – the manager saw the second leg of their second round tie in Reykjavik and dispatched assistant Garry Parker to cover their league defeat against Haka on Saturday – his main focus has been on his own players.
Now he believes it is how they play will determine the outcome of this tie, and give Celtic either the flying start they want to their season – or set them back on their heels.
Lennon elected to watch the early part of Saturday's glamour friendly against Inter Milan, which ended 1-1, looking down from the main stand, though, such was the disappointing attendance, there was no shortage of seats he could have occupied around the stadium.
What Lennon clearly saw was that the wide areas are working well, in particular the left where Emilio Izaguirre is finally back to the kind of form which he was showing prior to breaking an ankle at Aberdeen last August.
What was every bit as evident was that the Honduran's delivery was not being being capitalised upon by the strikers.
In friendly matches, that is frustrating but not fatal. In Champions League qualifiers, you have got to shoot to kill, or blow yourself out of running for the £15million bounty which lies at the entrance to the group stage.
What could be done with that kind of money is obvious, as new signings remain on hold until cash is deposited in Celtic's account.
The attendance of around 20,000 on Saturday was a reminder that, willing though the Celtic support is to back their team with voices, in these difficult financial times it would be a risky fiscal strategy to bank on money coming through the turnstiles.
The loss of Anthony Stokes to an ankle injury exposed how little Lennon has in reserve when it comes to attacking options.
And, even when the Republic of Ireland hitman was on the field with partner Gary Hooper, the lack of cutting edge which has been evident throughout their pre-season appearances was still there.
It took Kris Commons to show the way to goal, and, ironically, he also left the game early nursing an ankle injury.
Down to 10 men as all the outfield subs had already been deployed, Celtic could not hold out against Inter, who equalised through Rodrigo Palacio with only two minutes remaining.
Lennon is trying to maintain his calm demeanour but, more with the injuries in mind than the result of this match, he must he wondering why Lady Luck appears to be turning a blind eye to his team at the moment.
His players are fitter and sharper than they were when losing heavily to Ajax the week before, which must bring some solace.
But while Victor Wanyama, Joe Ledley, Fraser Forster, Commons and the majority of their team-mates more than held their own against Wesley Sneijder, Cristian Chivu, Diego Milito, Esteban Cambiasso and Co, Lennon knows his side still have to hone their sharpness.
"I thought it was really competitive on Saturday against Inter Milan," said Lennon. "We played the game at a good tempo, and the football we played was excellent.
"The chances we created were very good and, but for Samir Handanovic in their goal, we would have won the game.
"It's not as though Inter are behind us in terms of preparation, as can often be the case when we play teams from the likes of Italy at this stage of the year.
"They have been training for the same length of time as us and have their opening Europa League match against Hajduk Split on Thursday.
"I was really impressed by the fact their coach put out such a strong team with players like Cambiasso, Sneijder, Milito, Chivu and Handanovic.
"It was not like we were playing a pre-season friendly. That was a quality game. Italian teams are normally pretty strong, anyway. But, compared to last year when we played Inter Milan in Dublin, I think we are a lot further ahead."
Far enough? Only the result on Wednesday will determine for sure.
Lennon hopes to be able to field a very strong side, though the progress of the players suffering injuries will decide just how strong.
Whichever XI he can muster, the manager will leave them in no doubt they need to take a lead to Helsinki the following week.
"I'd like to win Wednesday's game and win it by as much as possible," said Lennon. "But, having watched them, I know it's going to be a really hard game.
"Helsinki have a bit of pace in their team, particularly in wide areas and have very fit players who know their way around the pitch.
"But, physically, we are in good condition and the football is starting to look better, so I think we are ready."
Are Celtic ready for Helsinki?
90 PER CENT says RONNIE CULLY
THE six-game pre-season schedule has now been completed – and there is no doubt the players have improved considerably, especially over the last week of their build-up.
However, while fitness and touch are now close to where they need to be, the cutting edge is still missing.
Invariably, this is the last thing to return after a summer break, and at least they are creating more chances than they were in the four games in Germany and Holland.
Nevertheless, Gary Hooper is a yard short of where he needs to be, both mentally and physically, and Anthony Stokes' injury is untimely, to say the least.
Central defence is also an area where improvement needs to be made, but that will be tough to achieve until a settled pairing is established.
The bottom line is, Celtic HAVE to be ready come Wednesday night.
JUST ABOUT says GRAEME MACPHERSON
IT is always difficult to gauge any team's readiness for the new campaign based on pre-season results and performances.
Managers, especially those with big squads like Neil Lennon, have to rotate to give every player some action, while these games often pair teams at different stages of their preparations.
Against Inter, Lennon went with what is not far off his best starting line-up and got from them a more than competent performance.
Assuming injuries to Kris Commons, Anthony Stokes and James Forrest aren't too serious, then Celtic look in decent shape heading into their first competitive game.
A lack of goals will be the main worry but, defensively, Celtic have looked solid, while Victor Wanyama, in particular, is thriving in midfield.
Now they have to show they can pull it all together when the action starts for real.