Sports: Celtic are better than Alashkert but they’ll have to deal with incredible heat – Sutton
Wednesday 6:00 AM GMT
Celtic are better than Alashkert but they'll have to deal with incredible heat – Sutton
John Sutton played in Yerevan with St Johnstone and admits it was the worst heat he's experienced.
By Michael Gannon
It's not quite Welcome to Hell butCelticwill still face the kind of Champions League sweat that would have Satan himself cracking on the air conditioning.
The Parkhead men are used to handling the heat in the European qualifiers underBrendan Rodgersbut there's no chance they will be able to keep their cool when they
head to Yerevan in Armenia next month.
The Hoops squad face a gruelling 7000-mile round
trip to the end of the continent to face Alashkert as they bid to set up a second- round clash with Rosenberg or Valur.
They'll need to sweat buckets to get there with the thermometer regularly hitting 40 degrees in the middle of July – asSt Johnstonesuffered three seasons ago.
Business as usual for Celtic in Champions League says assistant boss Chris Davies following today's draw
Tommy Wright's side slumped in the searing sunshine against Alashkert three years ago and former McDiarmid Park striker John Sutton admitted the brutal conditions made it impossible to shine.
The Perth men went down 1-0 in Armenia and went out on away goals despite winning the second leg 2-1 in Scotland and the front man admitted it's easy to get burned out there.
Sutton said: "The heat
there was incredible.
"I know players like to moan when it's too hot but in Yerevan it was at another level. It was completely overwhelming.
"It was about 40 degrees and the hottest I've every felt it on a football pitch.
"We knew what we were going up against as we went for a walk around the town in the afternoon of the game.
"After about 10 minutes we were all diving for shade. Not that it made much difference.
"We had to treat it a bit like when you go on holiday. You drink plenty of water and pack the sun cream – then pray the forecast changes!
"It does affect the game and the way you play. It's so muggy the sweat is pouring out of you during the warm-up.
"And there's no way you can play at the same pace you do in Scotland out there as the humidity completely drains you.
"It makes it a slower game and they will be used to it but Celtic will know what needs to be done.
"Celtic will be used to the travelling and the conditions. They've already experienced long-haul treks to places such as Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan so it won't cause them too many problems.
"Coping with the heat will be the big one.
"The had a tricky one in terms of conditions when they went to Gibraltar in Rodgers's first game but I think this will be up another few degrees."
And former Saints striker Steven MacLean admitted
the McDiarmid men were shedding pounds on the pitch in Yerevan. The new Hearts hitman said: "There's really nothing that you can do to accommodate it.
"You would need to go out there a couple of weeks earlier if you were going to try to get acclimatised to it.
"After training at the stadium the night before I was
struggling for a breath and I wasn't alone.
"You have water breaks and you certainly need plenty of fluids and salt tablets as well to help you cope with the
heat. I lost about half a stone that night – most of us did.
"And we all had to change our strips at half-time because they were absolutely saturated with sweat."
The extreme temperatures are one thing but Hoops fans can expect a warm welcome in Yerevan.
Sutton said: "The ground is not too bad.
"There's a running track around it so it's not too
intimidating in terms of the fans being right on top of you.
"The pitch was quite sticky when we were out there but you would expect that with
the weather.
"They could have the
sprinklers on all day but it wouldn't make much
difference as the water would evaporate in minutes.
"But it wasn't too bad. The town is quite nice as well.
"I didn't know too much about Armenia beforehand but Yerevan was a lovely town and the people were very friendly.
"It's quite westernised for that neck of the world and I'm sure the fans would enjoy it."
Saints escaped the heat trailing 1-0 but they lost their cool in the home leg. And Sutton said: "They're definitely no mugs.
"In 2015 they were a very technical side who liked to pass the ball around.
"It was a disappointing one for us because we felt we had a good opportunity to progress, even though we had a pretty horrendous injury list, if I remember rightly.
"We lost the first leg 1-0 but we fancied it in the return. We were the favourites at 1-0 up at half-time McDiarmid Park, especially when they got a man sent off not long after.
"But they caught us out with an equaliser and it gave us an uphill task. We managed to get one but came up short on
away goals. It was bitterly disappointing."
Saints stumbled but Sutton can't see Celtic coming a cropper against the minnows.
He said: "Celtic should be good enough to overcome them but there's no doubt it's a potential banana skin. It's so early in pre-season and it's easy to get cold.
"We saw it in Gibraltar when they slipped up. It was only a stumble and they got through pretty comfortably but ideally they would get an away goal out there to bring back to Glasgow. It's tricky but you'd fancy Celtic to cope.
"They have proved they can perform in the big games. They are used to playing in Europe, cup finals, league deciders and so on.
"They'll be professional and will target an away goal to make it straightforward when they get back to Parkhead.
"I'd expect them to progress. There will be tougher tests along the way but it would be good to see them back in the group stages again."
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