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Ronny Deila is sure Celtic will book place in Champions League with Malmo victory

By Ronnie Esplin

Ronny Deila has put his trust in his Celtic side to overcome Malmo in their crunch Champions League play-off first-leg tie tonight.

After passing up on two chances to reach the group stages last season after taking over from Neil Lennon - the Hoops lost to Slovenian outfit Maribor in the play-off after being reinstated - the Norwegian is confident that his players, who recovered to win the Ladbrokes Premiership and Scottish League Cup, are now ready to clear the final hurdle.

He said: "I trust my team. We have played a lot of games now and I almost can't remember the last time we lost a game.

"The team is in good shape with a lot of confidence. So we will see how it is against Malmo.

"We want Champions League football. I have said that since coming to this club. Now we have two games to reach it. We just have to be the best we can be.

"If we do that and not succeed, then we are not good enough and you have to go on.

"But if we are at our best it is going to be tough for Malmo as well."

The Celtic boss knows how tough the task will be against a side which reached the group stages for the first time last season, under the tutelage of fellow Norwegian, Age Hareide.

The former Stromsgodset boss said: "Malmo have done well in the last two, three years.

"I have big respect for the club. They have developed a lot of good football players over the years.

"They lost some players last season but they have added new players and some from the academy as well. We are going to face an experienced opponent.

"They had a fantastic period in the eighties with Roy Hodgson and now lately with Age, and given what they did last year it is going to be a tough game.

"But we know also, that we are Celtic and that we are a big club in Europe. We have had a good season so far and are well prepared for the game."

Hoops fans will see a familiar face in Norwegian midfielder Jo Inge Berget, whom Deila signed on a short-term loan deal from Cardiff City when he took charge of the Glasgow club.

Berget flopped during his time at Parkhead but Deila expects him, understandably, to want to prove a point when he returns.

He said: "Of course that is his goal, but I have a good relationship with Jo Inge.

"I have known him for many years. It was a tough time for him and for me as well at the start.

"We were struggling with results and he was one of the players brought in so he had a very tough time.

"I think also that the football in Sweden is more suited to him than British football.

"I know how good a player he is and he is a fantastic personality as well. But hopefully he will have a bad night."

And Mikael Lustig is determined that Celtic will not mess up in the play-off again.

Lustig admitted there was added determination this season to make the final step, after getting past Stjarnan of Iceland and Azerbaijan champions Qarabag in the previous two qualifiers.

Asked if past frustrations put extra importance on the Malmo match, the 28-year-old Sweden right-back said: "Yeah, of course, especially when you consider we were in the Champions League the previous two seasons.

"It's just unbelievable to have Champions League games at Celtic Park.

"We're going to make sure we don't mess it up this year.

"We're ready, we've been solid in Europe so far. We played really well defensively against Qarabag, our confidence is good now so I think we are ready.

"All the players and the fans want Champions League football .

"After we went out of the Champions League last year we became a better team.

"We played okay in the Europa League and were very close to the treble but the aim is to reach the Champions League."

Champions League: Parkhead, 7.45pm (BT Sport)


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