A CHAMPIONS League qualifying campaign that had already been made considerably more difficult for Celtic by the introduction of another two games by UEFA was complicated even further when AEK Athens were placed in their path last month.

The Scottish champions have safely negotiated some treacherous away fixtures, not least against Hapoel Be’er Sheva in Israel and Astana in Kazakhstan, in the past two seasons on their way to the group stages of Europe’s premier club competition.

But taking on an AEK side who will be seeking to go through after winning their first Greek title in 24 years in front of a crowd of 70,000 in the Olympic Stadium promises to make those aforementioned ties look tame in comparison.

Brendan Rodgers, though, feels Celtic have developed something of a reputation at home in continental competition themselves in the time he has been manager. He is sure their opponents will not relish travelling to a packed Parkhead for the first leg on Wednesday evening.

He is also hopeful that, with their fans roaring them on, a resounding victory can be recorded and the rematch made a formality. Hapoel were thrashed 5-2 two years ago and Astana defeated 5-0 last season. He will be looking for a similar scoreline.

"Mentally, you just get on and deal with what you are dealt,” he said. “I think lots of people would say they prefer the first leg away and second leg at home.

“But you can win the tie in the first leg so for us it's very important wherever we play, home or away, that we are really aggressive. In a lot of the ties over the last couple of years we have won it in the first leg. We can get great momentum.”

Asked if he thought the Athens players would be looking forward to coming to Glasgow, Rodgers said: “I wouldn't have thought so. The East End of Glasgow and 60,000 fans? Welcome to our neighbourhood. It's notorious Celtic Park for the noise, the atmosphere and the passion that's in Scotland here.”

Turning his attentions to the away leg, Rodgers admitted the intimidating atmosphere and playing conditions would be a challenge for the Celtic players even though they are no strangers to hostile environments tanks in no small part to their regular meetings with their city rivals Rangers.

“Going to Ibrox is the biggest test of any Celtic player for me,” he said. “But when it’s a strange environment it can be difficult. I have been in Turkey and the atmosphere there is incredible. It is a different sort of noise altogether.

“But that is where you have to keep your focus. These are the atmospheres we love to play in. That is what I will expect at this stage where there is so much riding on it.

“When you are a Celtic player you become accustomed to it. There is an expectancy there to be playing in front of a real partisan crowd of supporters who are passionate for the club at home every other week and in away games. The players live with that.

“It is not as if they are playing in front of 10,000 or 12,000 and then have to go into these big arenas like the Olympic Stadium and play in front of 60,000 all of a sudden. The players are accustomed to it. It is just a different problem.

“It is likely to be pretty hot over there too. Again, that is the challenge for the likes of us. But the first leg is at home and we will really concentrate on that. Like I say, we will position ourselves from there.”

Having qualified for the Champions League group stages in each of the last two seasons and progressed to the knockout rounds of the Europa League last term, Celtic are now expected to go through. But Rodgers knows exactly how demanding it is. He is taking nothing for granted this time around.

"You have to have gone through it,” he said. “If I was working down south, I probably wouldn't understand it anywhere near as well. You guys follow and see yourselves the travel and everything else.

“It's a great testament to all the teams up here involved in European football. You're not getting five weeks to prepare your team for the first game of the season. You virtually have no pre-season. Then, on top of that, you are trying to juggle getting transfers in, so it's certainly not an easy task. But you have to find a way and we have seen in the last couple of seasons and so far we are finding ways.”

Keeping a clean sheet away from home, as Celtic have done against both Alashkert in Armenia and Rosenborg in Norway, against AEK Athens in Greece will increase their chances of going through to the play-off.

Rodgers has a big decision to make before Wednesday night. Does he keep faith with Kristoffer Ajer and Jack Hendry given how well the youngsters did in Trondheim in midweek? Or does he bring back Dedryck Boyata or Jozo Simunovic now they are once again available for selection? It is a good problem for their manager to have.

"Clean sheets on the road in Europe is very important,” he said. “In two tricky games we were strong defensively and mentally and showed good resilience when we had to. It's always the mark of a good side if you can do that. So we've not conceded in the first two games away from home and fundamentally that, at this time of the season, is critical.

“There is no doubt Dedryck is a big player for us. He has shown that. Both young guys did very well, especially in the latter stages of the game when they were starting to put it into the box. They did great. But of course for the next games we are going to be stronger as a squad because the experienced players will come back into it so that will really help us.”