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Inter draw shows Celtic are ready for Europe: Matthews

By Ronnie Esplin

Adam Matthews shrugged off Celtic's poor pre-season results to claim the Parkhead side are ready for Wednesday night's Champions League qualifier against HJK Helsinki.

The Hoops' 1-1 home draw against Inter Milan on Saturday — where a wonderful Kris Commons strike just before the break was cancelled out by Rodrigo Palacio in the final minute — saw them put in a much better performance than their 4-0 thumping by Ajax last Saturday, which was followed up by their 1-0 defeat to Norwich at Celtic Park in midweek.

However, it left Neil Lennon's men with one win in six warm-up games ahead of the visit of the Finnish club for the first leg of the third qualifying round match.

The Wales full-back, though, saw enough against the Italian giants to give him confidence.

“We haven't done ourselves justice this pre-season performance-wise,” said Matthews.

“Ajax was an eye-opener for us. I think that is where we want to be and we showed we have improved since.

“But (on Saturday) I think it all came together.

“I think everyone played their best game of the pre-season so it is a good sign for us.

“We started the game well and kept it going and were unlucky not to get a victory in the end.

“We pushed a top class team all the way and I thought we deserved to get the win.”

HJK Helsinki won 9-1 on aggregate against KR Reykjavik in the last round and are halfway through their season.

Nevertheless, Celtic are favourites to go through and Matthews believes the Hoops can live with the expectancy.

“You always have pressure at a club like Celtic,” he said.

“I think it will be massive for the club if we can get through to the Champions League.

“But we know it's going to be a tough game so we have to be at 100%.

“It will obviously give them a slight advantage (to have played so many competitive games), but we have had a good pre-season.

“We have done a lot of conditioning so we are fully confident we can match them for 90 minutes and do a job.”

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