Ronny Deila has described Celtic’s Champions League play-off clash with Malmo on Tuesday night as a cup final.
The Hoops are 3-2 up from last week’s first leg in Glasgow and arrived in Sweden knowing success will net them upwards of £15million along with the kudos of mixing it with Europe’s elite.
Speaking at the Swedbank Stadion before his squad trained – right-back Mikael Lustig is a big doubt with a hamstring injury – Deila admitted nervous tension as he revealed the importance of the match to Celtic.
The Norwegian boss said: “It is like a final. If we get through we have reached one of our goals this season.
“If you don’t have nerves in games like this you have to do something else. It is very good to have a little bit nerves, but no fear.
“We know that the quality we have in our team is enough when we are at our best. We showed at Celtic Park that we are a better team than Malmo.
“Now we are away it is going to be a different game but we have confidence that if we are at our best we can win the game.
“We need to win everything in Scotland, we have to get into the Champions League.
“That’s how it is at Celtic. We hate losing and we haven’t done that for a long time.
“So yes, there is pressure on us to win but we have that every time and we know how to deal with that.”
Once again Deila had to deal with the question of Virgil van Dijk’s future.
Virgil van Dijk all set for trip to Malmo with Celtic pic.twitter.com/c7lmjBKYDJ— Sheelagh McLaren (@sheelaghmclaren) August 24, 2015
The Dutch defender has been linked with a £10million move to Southampton but the former Stromsgodset boss looks forward to reaching the group stage with the player still at the heart of his defence.
“We don’t need to sell Virgil,” he said. “I have said that a thousand times and I am tired of talking about him.
“He is an unbelievably good football player and Celtic is a big club and hopefully the scenario is (us) in the Champions League and Virgil van Dijk at Celtic Park in the group stages.
“Virgil has been very good this season so far and he is a vital player for us.
“He is still a Celtic player and hopefully will be for a long, long time.”
On Lustig’s injury, Deila said: “We will see. We hope that Mikael can be ready but we have showed that we can do without him.”
Leigh Griffiths insists he will put Scotland aspirations on the back burner as he attempts to take Celtic into the Champions League.
The Hoops striker was included in Gordon Strachan’s squad for the upcoming European Championship qualifiers against Georgia and Germany.
Griffiths has started the season in great form with seven goals, including five in his last four games, and is focused only on the next task in hand.
He said: “It is a good boost but my main aim is trying to fire Celtic into the Champions League.
“It is great to be involved in the Scotland squad but Celtic is my bread and butter and if I can get them into the Champions League I will be more than happy.
“I was on the bench last year against Maribor when we got knocked out but this is a different squad and we are looking to get the job done.”
Reminded that Malmo keeper Johan Wiland had described him as acting like a child during the first leg, and asked if it annoyed him, Griffiths said to some laughter: “Not really. I have been called a brat many a time from my parents.
“By an opposition player, it doesn’t bother me at all.
“He has made comments in the paper and is trying to play mind games and is probably hurting from the defeat last week.
“But we are going into the game looking to win.”