Deila insists 'better' Celtic squad can pile pressure on Malmo
Published 19/08/2015 | 02:30
Only European occasions have filled Parkhead these past three years and tonight the trend will extend to the Champions League play-off first leg against Malmo.
A capacity crowd - or close to it, to judge by the flow of ticket sales - will urge Ronny Deila to win his spurs as Hoops manager by steering Celtic towards the group stage which would fuel the club with income and interest until midwinter.
Sure, Deila has a domestic championship plus the Scottish League Cup to his credit, but the patchy - and sometimes shambolic - nature of last season's European outings rankles with the Norwegian.
When Neil Lennon was in charge in the east end of Glasgow, he confessed that only these qualifiers ever caused him to lose sleep, because of the scale of the stakes, but Deila has not had the air of a man who is fretting overmuch about the task ahead.
Of Malmo, who overcame a first-leg deficit to prevail against Salzburg in the previous qualifying round, Deila said: "They are better than they were two months ago.
"They beat Salzburg again, although I don't know how good Salzburg are, compared to last year when we played them. In Malmo's best periods, they could challenge Celtic for the title if they were playing in the Scottish league, but they couldn't do it for a long time.
"We are a much bigger club than Malmo. If I had to choose between the Malmo squad and my squad, I would choose my squad.
"That is something we have to take advantage of in Europe also, especially at home. It's a little bit different away, but at home, we need to show why we have 60,000 people behind us."
The bare statistics favour Celtic, who are 46th in the Uefa rankings, while Malmo are in 123rd place. They have not conceded a goal in four encounters with Swedish sides at this level and their back-to-back 2-0 wins against Helsingborg in the 2012-13 play-offs were administered when Age Hareide was the opposition coach.
Hareide made plenty of disparaging remarks about Celtic after the first leg but his bravado was quelled when his players could do no better in Glasgow than they had achieved at home.
Now the garrulous Norwegian is back in town, not that his fellow Norwegian believes that previous form is any guide to future prospects.
"I know what he is coming here with and he has played against my systems before," said Deila. "I know that when we play our system that well, it is not possible to stop us. He knows as well."
Celtic v Malmo, live, RTE2, 7.45