Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Celtic expecting a difficult early test

GLASGOW, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 15:  John Collins coach of Hibernian gestures to his players during the Tennent's Scottish Cup Semi Final between Hibernian and Dunfermline Athletic at Hampden Park April 15, 2007 in Glasgow, Scotland.  (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
GLASGOW, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 15: John Collins coach of Hibernian gestures to his players during the Tennent's Scottish Cup Semi Final between Hibernian and Dunfermline Athletic at Hampden Park April 15, 2007 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Celtic assistant manager John Collins recognises the importance of the Hoops' Champions League second-round qualifier against KR Reykjavik.

The first leg in Iceland tonight will be the Scottish champions' first competitive match of the season and new manager Ronny Deila's first competitive match since taking over from Neil Lennon.

Before flying out from Glasgow, Collins confirmed winger James Forrest is out with a groin problem to join injured skipper Scott Brown on the sidelines, then turned his attention to the crucial qualifier.

He said: "Of course it is a big test but we are looking forward to it. We've been back three weeks now, this is the big one.

"All the preparations have gone towards getting a good performance and good result.

"We have had four (pre-season) matches and the squad is getting fitter every day. We want to go there and try to score goals.

"We have watched them twice, we have had videos cut up so we know their strengths and weaknesses but at the end of the day it is about how we play.

"This is where Celtic want to be, we want to be on the big stage.

"We know we have to take care of this team, it won't be easy. It never is at the start of the season but we are looking forward to it."

On the absence of Brown and Forrest, the former Hibernian manager said: "It is obviously disappointing, two big players, certainly Scott our captain and leader, but we have to get on with it now.

"We have lots of other good players in the squad who have to step up and show that they can do a job for the team as well and I have no doubt they will."

Meanwhile, The Hoops want Chelsea's 22-year-old Ghanaian Christian Atsu on loan as new boss Deila attempts to resolve the issue of a lack of wide players available to him.

However, the man Celtic first tracked when he was with Porto prior to his £5million move to Chelsea, is just back from a season on loan at Vitesse Arnhem, and Aston Villa, West Ham, Hamburg and Espanyol are also eager to take him a short-term deal.

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