Tony sets his goal out as Celtic prepare for Arsenal
Tony Mowbray believes it is unwise to write Celtic off against Arsenal but admits the Hoops are pinning all their hopes on scoring first at the Emirates Stadium.
The teams clash in tonight's Champions League play-off second leg with the Gunners 2-0 ahead in the tie.
Should Arsenal add a third, Mowbray admits the match will effectively be over but he is confident his side will subject Arsene Wenger to some uncomfortable moments.
Arsenal face Manchester United in the Barclays Premier League on Saturday so an early breakthrough would enable him to make half-time changes against Celtic.
“It's a difficult task after the first leg but it's a game we're looking forward to. I've talked about trying to score the first goal,” said Mowbray. “In any match the third goal is a very crucial one — it's either when the game's put to bed or the team who was 2-0 up get very nervous.
“We're at half-time in this tie and we need the goal. I don't think Arsene Wenger will have written us off. He's way too good at his job to have done that.
“I'm sure he'd like to score the goal so that he can relax while sitting on the bench.
“But if we score first then he won't be relaxing and it won't be a case of bringing some players off to rest them for Manchester United. We gave a good account of ourselves in the first match, though Arsenal were the better side on the night.
“Let's hope for a bit of good fortune (tonight) and see where that takes us.”
In response to suggestions Arsenal's team selection will be shaped by their trip to Old Trafford, Mowbray joked: “We will be competitive whoever plays but we've obviously got half an eye on a very strong Hibs team this weekend!
“It's important that we do well in the Scottish Premier League.”
Wenger highlighted what he viewed as some physical play from Celtic in the first leg, prompting Mowbray to stress the difficulty in facing Arsenal.
“If you sit off Arsenal and get beaten by five or six, people criticise you for not getting in amongst them,” he said.
“But you have to compete, put your foot in and challenge, which is all we did because we don't have any overly physical players.
“I'd suggest we don't have an overly physical team. I take little stock in post-match comments, even if they're from the best manager in the world.”
If Celtic fail to topple Arsenal in north London they will drop into the Europa League — a thought that Mowbray refuses to entertain just yet.
“I'm not concerned about the safety net of the Europa League, it's no consolation to be fair,” he said. “But if we're in that competition we will enjoy it and be as competitive as we can.”
Cameroon midfielder Landry N'Guemo will miss the clash through suspension while Stephen McManus and Barry Robson did not travel south with the squad.
Meanwhile, the Parkhead club confirmed they are in talks with representatives of South Korea midfielder Ki Sung-yong.
Hoops chief executive Peter Lawwell said the player is being viewed as “one for the future”, though manager Mowbray had earlier denied any interest in the player. K-League leaders FC Seoul earlier claimed Celtic were chasing the highly-rated 20-year-old.
Lawwell met with Ki's representatives in London yesterday ahead of the meeting with Arsenal but stressed any deal would not take place during the current transfer window.
Seoul's general manager Kang Myong-won added: “Celtic have informed us of their intentions about Ki Sung-yong.
“We understand that the player may want to move but this is not a good time for us to sell.”
Seoul are currently six points clear at the top of the K-League and will face Qatar's Umm Salal in the Asian Champions League quarter-finals next month.
Mowbray has used the South Korean market before, bringing Kim Do-heon to West Brom while in charge at the Hawthorns.