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Rodgers saddened by absence of Celtic fans in Linfield

The manager says the lack of fans is a shame for Linfield and Northern Ireland.

Brendan Rodgers has expressed sadness that Celtic supporters have to miss the first leg of their Champions League second qualifier against Linfield on Friday due to safety issues.

The original dates set aside by UEFA would have seen the Parkhead club travel to Belfast to play the Northern Irish champions at the height of the Orange Order marching season on July 11/12.

That sparked fears of trouble among the Glasgow club's supporters and even after moving the encounter back to July 14, with a 5pm kick-off, Celtic did not take up a ticket allocation.

Speaking ahead of the clash, the Northern Irishman said: "Of course the disappointment is the supporters aren't there because whenever Celtic travel worldwide they're always renowned for having great support.

"Celtic's the club that lots of teams and players have as their testimonial games. Why? Because the Celtic supporters travel in great numbers and know how to behave themselves when they go to those grounds.

"That's the only sadness for me. Wherever I've been and travelled this last year, the games have been absolutely great but the supporters make them.

"It's unfortunate they're not going to be there. It's a shame for Linfield and for Northern Ireland.

"Football is a sport in this country that's loved and to have had the two sets of supporters there would have been fantastic for this country.

"The Celtic supporters will travel worldwide but this is a game the football club haven't been able to have assurances over their safety, which is sad for me.

"Coming back to Northern Ireland, and a new Northern Ireland but not able to, for some way, ensure the supporters' safety is guaranteed then that's a problem for me."

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