CELTIC crashed to another demoralising defeat as their pre-season preparations came to close in Germany last night.

The SPL champions lost 3-0 to Bundesliga Two side Union Berlin, who earlier this wee, saw off Dundee United 4-1.

However, United do not have a Champions League qualifier in five days' time. Celtic do.

And what condition, both physically and mentally, his players will be in when they head to Belfast to face Cliftonville on Wednesday must be a concern to boss Neil Lennon.

This was the fourth and final warm-up game, and it failed to inject any great confidence into an injury-hit squad who must hit the plastic pitch at Solitude running next week.

They got back to business in a closed-door bounce game against Crewe two weeks ago, with the three 30-minute periods ending in a 3-2 defeat for the Hoops.

When they moved on to Germany, the action stepped up a gear, in every sense.

The Hoops lost 1-0 in their opener to Ukraine club Sevastopol then went down 2-1 to Romanian team CFR Cluj. The 6-2 thumping taken against last season's bottom club in the Bundesliga, Greuther Furth, set some alarm bells ringing.

But Lennon insisted there was no need to be concerned – until he took a look at his growing injury list.

So, it was a relieved manager who last night could finally call on skipper Scott Brown, who has not played since the Scottish Cup final at the end of May.

The sight of James Forrest after he was forced to miss out in midweek against Furth was also heartening.

But, with Virgil van Dijk, Steven Mouyokolo and Charlie Mulgrew among those not fit to get stripped, Lennon was forced to draft in 20 year-old Aussie Jackson Irvine – flown into Berlin yesterday with Under-20s team-mates Stuart Findlay and Mikey Miller – as a partner for Kelvin Wilson in central defence.

Adam Matthews, who has not played since damaging a hamstring against Juventus in March, and Joe Ledley, who is also looking for his first action of the close-season, remain on the missing list.

With the opening tie against Cliftonville looming large, no chances were taken with in-demand striker, Gary Hooper, who picked up a slight strain last weekend.

Amido Balde was left on the bench once again as Anthony Stokes was given the responsibility of leading the line, supported by Georgios Samaras and Kris Commons.

It was certainly not the full dress rehearsal Lennon may have planned before the serious action begins in Belfast next midweek.

There is no doubt that the heavy pre-season schedule has succeeded in raising the match fitness and sharpness of the players, the real objective of the entire exercise.

But losing games can become a habit, and not one which the Celtic players should every accept. Their fans certainly don't, even if it is pre-season.

With Union Berlin enjoying the bulk of the possession and asking many questions of the Hoops defence in the opening half hour, their lungs and legs were certainly challenged.

Urged on by a partisan and sizeable crowd, the quick- passing Union players went looking for goals from the start – and required only 11 minutes to get one.

Fraser Forster was deceived by a swerving, dipping shot from 22 yards by Simon Terodde before Wilson could close him down.

The keeper won't be happy to have lost that one, but he did make two excellent saves from Martin Dausch, the first after just three minutes, confirmed that he has lost nothing of the agility which made him one of the club's top performers last season.

When Celtic did get the ball to the other end of the pitch, Stokes found himself surrounded by Union defenders and several promising moves broke down.

By the interval, they had found their stride, and a couple of long-range efforts from Commons and Rogic, which were deflected for corners.

Added to the Mikael Lustig shot from a Commons corner which flew just past the far post, the indications were that the Hoops did carry a threat.

Unfortunately, the Swede did not re-appear after the break, perhaps the result of a kick he took inside 10 minutes of the game starting.

Lustig was replaced by teenager Miller, and the more experienced defender's height might have helped when Union Berlin doubled their lead after 55 minutes.

A corner was cleared but returned with interest and Soren Brandy fired in beyond Forster before anyone in Hoops could react.

With Brown having run his race, Beram Kayal was introduced in his place.

Balde replaced Forrest and Baruhdin Atajic came on for Samaras as Lennon looked to add something different up front.

New Bhoy Balde did come within inches of providing just that, but could not stretch enough to meet a Stokes cross which flew across the face of the goal.

Damir Kreilach had no such problem when Union Berlin scored their third, again the goal coming from a corner.

This time it was laid back and curled into the box, where Kreilach rose above Balde to head home from eight yards.

Mercifully, that was the end of the scoring, and the tour.

But Lennon and his squad had plenty to occupy their thoughts as they flew back to Glasgow.

CELTIC: Forster; Lustig (Miller 46), Irvine, Wilson Findlay 86), Izaguirre (Waters 74); Forrest (Balde 60), Brown (Kayal 61), Rogic, Commons; Samaras (Atajic 70), Stokes (Henderson 82).