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Celtic are ready for pitch battle, insists Ronny Deila

By Ronnie Esplin

Ronny Deila declared himself unconcerned about the Tofiq Bahramov Stadium pitch ahead of the Champions League qualifier against Qarabag this evening.

The poor state of the scorched surface in sun-baked Baku has dominated the build-up to the second leg of the third qualification round, the Hoops leading 1-0 against the Azerbaijan champions from the first game at Parkhead.

However, after Deila had a look at the pitch before the press conference at the ground, he said: "It is not a perfect pitch of course. But it is a pitch and we are used to playing in those types of pitches in Scotland in the winter so we have to make the best of the situation.

"Again, this is how it is in football, sometimes you have different conditions and you have to handle that.

"Since coming to Celtic I have been very impressed with the players and how they handle different situations and it will be no trouble.

"Everything has been perfect, the plane journey was shorter than normal, the hotel is fantastic and it will be good that the sun will be away.

"I think we have done everything we can to put in a good performance."

The Norwegian is confident that midfielder Nir Bitton and striker Leigh Griffiths will shrug off respective ankle and calf problems in time for the match.

However, Deila returned with a weariness to the issue of Virgil van Dijk, linked to Southampton who have bid £7million for the Dutch defender.

The former Stromsgodset boss said: "It is the same things I say all the time.

"We don't need to sell him and we want to have him here.

"Virgil is very focused, happy and really wants to play Champions League with Celtic.

"Seven million? You think we would say yes to that? They haven't bid.

"He is a top international player and everyone knows that.

"We want to reach the Champions League. We want to make this big club be successful and we need the best players and he is one of them."

Skipper Scott Brown knows how important qualification for the Champions League is for Celtic.

"The Champions League is huge for this club, it's where we belong," he said

"Overall, we are as good as anyone in this competition and this is where we need to show it."

Champions League: Tofiq Bahramov Stadium, 5.30pm



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