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Nnox into shape

Cliftonville travel to Celtic’s Lennoxtown training base tomorrow for the first of two weekend friendly fixtures that boss Barry Gray believes will provide timely tests ahead of his side’s upcoming Europa League commitments.

The Reds host Nordsjælland in a First Qualifying Round first leg tie next Thursday night and, in advance of Sunday’s Tolka Park encounter with Shelbourne, will step up their preparations at the Hoops’ £8m facility in East Dunbartonshire, where they will contest a behind-closed-doors clash with a Celtic XI – and the Manager is pleased to have back-to-back games at this stage of their warm-up schedule.

“Saturday’s game against a Celtic Development Squad and Sunday’s match with Shelbourne will help us get further up to scratch,” he explains.

“They are our two final games before the European match next Thursday and, following on from facing Derry earlier this week, the boys can see how much they still need to do and how we need to continue to develop over the next few games.”

In terms of Cliftonville’s overall preparations for the season ahead, Gray adds: “We’re in a different situation to this time last year, where we had huge amount of work to do in such a short space of time. A lot of the things we saw against Derry that we still need to work on are things that we can address quite quickly in training sessions and hopefully in the next game or two – so we’re positive and confident in that respect.”

Weekend fixtures
Saturday, July 7 (1.30pm)
Celtic XI v Cliftonville

Sunday, July 8 (2pm)
Shelbourne v Cliftonville