Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart urges team-mates to cherish Europa League adventure ahead of Real Betis clash

The Hoops goalkeeper will aim to keep his sixth clean sheet of the season against Real Betis

Joe Hart has told his new Celtic team-mates to cherish the occasion as they begin their Europa League campaign against Real Betis in Seville this evening.

The Hoops goalkeeper has been a standout performer for Ange Postecoglou’s side and will aim to keep his sixth clean sheet of the season against the La Liga outfit.

Hart is no stranger to featuring on the European stage having gained significant experience during his time in England with Manchester City, West Ham, Burnley and Tottenham Hotspur.

He told Celtic TV: “We’re excited and it’s a great opportunity for us. I think it’s going to be a really good game of football.

“Obviously, we suffered a disappointing result before the international break, but it feels like we’re trying to build some momentum on the back of a good performance against Ross County.

“We’ve got a settled squad now, every player the club wanted to get in the door is in now.

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“Real Betis are a proper team. They come from a really passionate footballing city and are used to having that rivalry as well with Sevilla, so it’s a big game for both teams.

“I think you’ve just got to remove yourself from the whole situation and concentrate on playing the type of football we want to play, concentrate on what we want to achieve.

“You’ve got to respect the opposition, but you’ve also got to believe in each other. It’s a really exciting occasion to play in Europe, so I’d say cherish it, enjoy it for what it is.

“Enjoy it for the experience, playing in different countries, experiencing different cultures and ultimately try to do the badge proud.”

Meanwhile, right-back Josip Juranovic recognises the importance of European football to Celtic.

Around 80,000 Hoops’ supporters descended on Andalusia ahead of the 2003 UEFA Cup Final against Porto.

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The Croatian international, who arrived on a five-year-deal from Legia Warsaw in the summer and has settled well in Glasgow, is aware of that memorable occasion.

However, the 26-year-old knows the Hoops face a difficult task on their return to Spain to beat a Real Betis side coming off their joint-highest La Liga finish (6th) in 16 years.

He admitted: “We want to see ourselves in this tournament because it’s a big stage for us to perform on and for our fans.

“We can’t wait for the game. I have heard stories about what happened in 2003 when our supporters travelled over in big numbers.

“Football is all about supporters. They can be your 12th player and you will give 200 per cent, so it is disappointing we won’t have them here for this game.

“We need to try and keep the ball in our possession as best we can otherwise, we must defend strongly as a team. If we can keep creating chances, then hopefully we will see results.”

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Despite the absence of Hoops supporters inside the Estadio Benito Villamarin tonight, Real Betis are set to welcome one of the country’s biggest post-pandemic crowds with over 30,000 expected in attendance.