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Ronny Deila: Celtic ready to achieve Champions League dream against Maribor

Updated: Monday, 25 Aug 2014 20:01 | Comments

Ireland international Anthony Stokes helped Celtic to a 1-1 away draw in the first leg
Ireland international Anthony Stokes helped Celtic to a 1-1 away draw in the first leg

Ronny Deila claims taking Celtic into the Champions League would be like "Christmas and New Year" rolled into one.

The Scottish champions appear to be in the box seat after their 1-1 draw with Maribor in the first-leg of their play-off in Slovenia last week.

Speaking at the club's training complex in Lennoxtown ahead of the return game at Parkhead on Tuesday night (7.45pm), the Norwegian described his feeling about the possibility of taking the final step into the lucrative group stages where the Hoops would rub shoulders for the third successive season with the elite of European football.

"It is a dream to have the opportunity to play in the Champions League," said Deila, who would only reveal that "things were moving" with regards the signing of Ghana winger Wakaso Mubarak from Rubin Kazan and Sporting Gijon's Serbian striker Stefan Scepovic.

"It is the biggest tournament, the highest level in football so it is Christmas and Happy New Year at the same time.

"It is going to be a huge game and a huge experience. I feel ready and the team is ready as well.

"So I am looking forward to it."

The former Stromsgodset boss, who took over from Neil Lennon in June, is well aware that he is getting a second bite at the European cherry.

Celtic Draw with Maribor


Legia Warsaw thrashed the Scottish champions 6-1 on aggregate in their third qualifier but the Polish club were effectively drummed out of the competition by UEFA for fielding a player who should have been suspended in the second leg at Murrayfield.

Deila, who will have full-back Adam Matthews back in the squad following his recovery from a calf injury, said: "We have a new chance to get into the Champions League and we have to do everything we can to use that chance well.

"It will be a full stadium, an unbelievable atmosphere and we will do everything we can to make that atmosphere even better.

"We have to perform for two games. We did well in the first leg and it is going to be a hard second leg.

"But we have everything to win."

Deila clams his players are fitter and feel more comfortable with their remit since the two Legia games where a 4-1 defeat in Warsaw was followed by a 2-0 loss in Edinburgh, which was overturned into a 3-0 win for the Hoops due to the Polish club's indiscretion.

However, he knows his team will have to strike a balance between going all-out attack in traditional Celtic-style on European nights at Parkhead, and guarding against the counter-attack.

"It will be a full stadium, an unbelievable atmosphere and we will do everything we can"

"It is important to start well and get the crowd with you but you have to play tactically well and have balance in the team," he said.

"Maribor played very tactically at home and they will do the same here.

"They were very easy to read but very hard to stop because they are very good on the counter-attack.

"They are a well-organised, hard-working team so it is very important that we also have the same focus.

"We have to press together and we have to be compact. We want to attack and be offensive but in a clever way."

Maribor boss Ante Simundza insists all the pressure is on Celtic.

Asked if the pressure had moved on to the Scottish champions, Simundza said: "Yes, because they are favourites.

"I don't know if it will affect them because Celtic is a very big team with a nice history and they are used to playing in such games but the pressure is certainly on them.

"I don't gamble but we have an equal chance of going through to the group stage and I think tomorrow will be a very tough match.

"I had watched DVDs and my assistant had given me information which meant Celtic did not surprise me in any way, what I expected from them I saw in Maribor.

"It would be a big achievement if we qualified.

"We played well in Maribor but we have to play a little bit better in Glasgow.

"Celtic is a very big team with a nice history and they are used to playing in such games but the pressure is certainly on them"

"But we know it will be very tough because we know Celtic are a very good team. We have to be tactically 100 per cent in defence and offence and in the 90 minutes we will see where we come."

Simundza, who played for Maribor the only time they qualified for the Champions League, 15 years ago, believes his team will be inspired rather than cowed by the huge Parkhead crowd.

"The atmosphere will be very hot but I don't think that will be a problem," he said.

"It is a football atmosphere and we like that.

"The 60,000 fans give energy to the team and of course make it very difficult but we know how to react to that.

"We have to be very focused in the first 15 minutes under pressure but that will not take our powers, it might give us additional energy."

Marcos Tavares thinks Celtic's obligation to attack at home will leave space for Maribor to exploit.

The 30-year Brazilian-born striker said: "I believe that we have a great opportunity. Celtic will have to play offensively but that will leave us some space to attack and get a positive result.

"It would be a big thing to qualify for the group stages, every player wishes to play in the Champions League and now is the time for Maribor to play there for the second time."

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