Celtic defender Mikael Lustig believes fatigue is the Hoops’ biggest enemy as they prepare to face Hibernian in the William Hill Scottish Cup final.
The Parkhead outfit will line-up against Pat Fenlon’s men at Hampden on Sunday following an exhausting campaign both home and abroad.
This weekend’s showdown will be Celtic’s 59th match after claiming the Clydesdale Bank Premier League title, reaching the last 16 of the Champions League and marching to the semi-finals of the Scottish Communities League Cup.
Ten members of Neil Lennon’s squad have racked up 40 games or more, with goalkeeper Fraser Forster and striker Gary Hooper clocking up a clean half century of appearances.
And Lustig – who faces two World Cup qualifiers next month before he will be able to fly off for his summer break – admits the Glasgow giants are weary.
The right-back, who turned out 37 times for his club this term, said: “Is there a sense of tiredness to the squad? Yeah, I think so. Playing 50 games is a lot. It will be the same next year. Hopefully we are going to play in Europe again.
“We know there is a lot of games involved and you have to try and be alert in your head.
“The manager has given a few of the boys time off and that was the right move. We need to have a rest mentally, time to not think about football.
“Some of the boys will only get three weeks off and then it will be 11 months of football again. That’s a lot.
“I’m away with Sweden after the cup final. We play Austria away and the Faroe Islands at home in the World Cup qualifiers. It’s another three weeks before I can rest but hopefully I can handle that.
“Hopefully we will have a strong squad next year so I don’t think I will have to play 60 or 70 games next year.”
Lustig could yet be given this weekend off, admitting he is uncertain of whether he or defensive rival Adam Matthews will be given the nod to start.
Matthews has not featured for the Parkhead side since injuring his hamstring in the second-leg defeat to Juventus in Turin in March as Celtic’s Champions League adventure was halted at the first knockout hurdle.
But Lustig said: “I’m not guaranteed a start. We will see what happens with Adam first, to see if he is going to be fit or not. Maybe I’ll play or not, maybe I’ll be at right-back or centre-half, I don’t know.
“I’m just hoping that I will play.”
Should the Swede land a place in the team that lines up against the Easter Road men, he insists he will be desperate to walk off with his second winner’s medal of the season.
But he rejects the notion that a failure to land the Double will mean Celtic’s season has been a let-down.
“I want to go on my holidays as a winner,” he said. “But I think it has been a great season anyway.
“One of our goals was doing well in Europe and we did that. The other was winning the league and we’ve done that too. Our season has been really great but if we manage to do the double, then it would be terrific.”