Celtic midfielder Kris Commons has stressed the importance of his side starting their 2013-14 campaign in style.
The Scottish Premier League champions will play up to nine matches before the end of August, of which six could be in the UEFA Champions League if the qualifiers go their way.
Celtic are bidding to return to the group stages of Europe’s premier club competition again, having beaten Barcelona and progressed into the round of 16 last term before losing out to Serie A giants Juventus.
Neil Lennon’s side will learn their opponents in the second round of Champions League qualifying – which is followed by the third round and the play-offs – at Monday’s draw in Nyon.
Of the qualifiers, Commons told The Daily Record: “They’re the first games but they’re the most important we’ll play all season, same as they were last year.
“We’ve only really had three full weeks off but I spent a lot of time in the gym trying to get as fit as possible.
“You need to get up to a level where you are competing in Europe right from the off. Previously, before I came to the club, the team did struggle against the likes of Braga.
“So the manager has identified that we need to come back in at the right time, in good enough shape, to make sure we go straight into the good stuff in training rather than spending two weeks running just to get fit again.
“It’s not long before we’re into the biggest games of the season and if the new signings are going to make us better then we need them in and around the current players as much as possible so we’re comfortable with them and get to know their games.
“We want them to be clicking right from the start.”
Commons scored 19 goals in 46 appearances in all competitions for Celtic last season.