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Ronny Deila backing assistant John Collins after rivals' criticism

By Gavin McCafferty

Celtic manager Ronny Deila has defended assistant John Collins after he was accused of being disrespectful to the rest of the Ladbrokes Premiership.

Deila claimed the former Scotland midfielder's comments were taken out of context after he stated that players in Scotland lacked the pace and intelligence to punish Celtic.

Several Premiership managers have hit back but Deila claims Collins was only trying to state an "obvious" fact that his side face bigger challenges in Europe than in the domestic game.

Quoted in Sunday newspapers, Collins said: "We conceded too many goals in Europe last year. If you become open and detached from each other against good players and good teams you'll be punished.

"It's something that doesn't happen to us in Scotland - no disrespect to the other Scottish teams, but they're not clever enough players or quick enough thinkers to punish us when we do become detached from one another."

Disrespect was taken though. Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes felt the comments were "very disparaging" and a "slap in the face" to the rest of the league.

Dundee boss Paul Hartley called them "unfair" and "disrespectful" and Dundee United manager Jackie McNamara, while sceptical about the reporting of the comments, questioned why Celtic had signed three of his players this year if his former Scotland team-mate felt that way.

However, Deila claimed the situation had been blown up by the media.

Speaking ahead of tomorrow's trip to Kilmarnock, Deila said: "You take it totally out of context. I think everyone agrees that you sometimes meet opponents in Europe that are better than what you meet in Scotland. That's a very, very obvious thing.

"You get tested harder than you do in the domestic league. That's not only in Scotland but in Norway and Sweden or wherever. But that's not disrespectful to the teams.

"John knows what football is and what quality is and what's best for Scottish football. He has played in the semi-finals of the Champions League.

"Everyone knows it's harder in the Champions League than the Scottish league, so why discuss it?"

Deila, who could have Scott Brown, Stuart Armstrong and Charlie Mulgrew available tomorrow, added: "We have been the best team in Scotland for four years. Last year we won by 17 points. In the Champions League we meet tougher opponents. That's not disrespectful, we have a lot of challenges in Scotland, but the level in Europe is very, very high.

"The level of teams is better in the Champions League. There is nothing odd about that."

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