Ronny Deila is in need of new faces to bolster Celtic
The gloom which threatened to envelop Celtic has been dispelled – at least temporarily – by the decision of the Uefa disciplinary board to eject Legia Warsaw from the draw for the Champions League play-off round for fielding an ineligible player in their 2-0 win at Murrayfield on Wednesday.
Consequently, Celtic, who had been hammered 6-1 on aggregate by the Poles, have been reinstated and will now face NK Maribor of Slovenia for a place in club football's most lucrative competition.
Legia full-back Bartosz Bereszynski appeared for only the final four minutes of the return match in Edinburgh, but that was enough to result in his club's disqualification. He had been dismissed for violent conduct against Appolon Limassol last season, triggering an automatic three-match ban from Uefa tournaments.
Bereszynski was not stripped for the qualifying-round matches against St Patrick's Athletic or the first leg against Celtic, but an administrative error saw Legia fail to include him in their squads for those matches, which would have set the meter running on his punishment.
That omission meant that, in the eyes of Uefa, he was still suspended and, therefore, ineligible when he came on to run down the clock on Wednesday.
For that offence, Uefa awarded Celtic a 3-0 victory in that match, which amended the aggregate scoreline to 4-4, with the Scottish champions progressing on away goals and making the two penalties missed by Legia captain Ivica Vrdoljak in the first leg much more costly than they appeared.
In a statement, the governing body said: "Legia have been sanctioned for fielding an ineligible player (article 18 of the Uefa Champions League regulations and article 21 of the disciplinary regulations). The match has been declared as forfeit meaning Legia Warsaw have lost the match 3-0.
"As a consequence, Celtic have qualified for the Uefa Champions League play-offs on away goals (agg 4-4) and Legia will compete in the Europa League play-offs.
"In addition, the player, Bartosz Bereszynski, has been suspended for one additional Uefa competition match for which he would be otherwise eligible.
"This suspension shall be added to the remaining two-match suspension which the player still has to serve in accordance with the control and disciplinary body decision of February 13, 2014."
Celtic manager Ronny Deila hopes that the unexpected piece of luck will prove to be a pivotal moment for his players.
"Of course, the Champions League had been our goal," he said. "Now we have a second chance we have to try and use it and do everything we can. We don't want to perform badly. We have to start well against St Johnstone and then use every match to get our confidence high. Playing Maribor gives us a fantastic possibility to win and get back on the right track."
Deila also empathised with fellow Norwegian Henning Berg, the Legia coach who had out-thought him in both matches.
"Of course I feel for Henning," he said. "It must be very hard to deal with that. I know some of the people involved and I know what is at stake. I don't think Henning would have (made the substitution) if he was aware of it."
The change in circumstance has increased the urgency for Deila to strengthen his squad ahead of the first leg in Slovenia on August 20, and chief executive Peter Lawwell will be under pressure to deliver significant signings.
"You have to lift the whole squad and that kind of circulation can be good for the team," Deila said. "And when you are a winning team, then it's very important to get new faces in. You keep up the energy and the challenges within the side.
"Still, having the Champions League could also make it easier to get players in."
After the initial elimination by Legia, Deila had claimed that his squad lacked the quality to reach the Champions League and that root-and-branch change was required, but he backtracked on that.
"No, that's not what I was saying," he claimed. "We need to build up a new team, but you can't turn around every player. We need to start from scratch with each other and build a philosophy of how we want to play. That's what I meant – not getting 20 new players in. Of course, we do need some new players and we will get them before the play-off round.
"I'm confident we can progress against Maribor, but first we have St Johnstone and we must start there." (© Daily Telegraph, London)