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Deila is confident Celts are in a 'good place'

Celtic manager Ronny Deila and Scott Brown during a press conference ahead of the Europa League Group A game against Ajax at the Amsterdam ArenA
Picture: PA
Ronnie Esplin in Amsterdam

BOSS Ronny Deila insisted there is clear air around Celtic as he prepared for the Europa League opener against Ajax in Amsterdam on Thursday night.

The Hoops were criticised after losing their place at the top of the Scottish Premiership last Saturday with a 2-1 defeat by Aberdeen at Pittodrie, with the Dons going five points clear with a 1-0 win in their game in hand over Hamilton on Tuesday night.

And after being knocked out of the Champions League at the play-off stage with a 4-3 aggregate defeat by Swedish side Malmo, there is pressure on the Norwegian to make a better fist of the Europa League while establishing the club as the best in Scotland again.

Deila, speaking at the Amsterdam ArenA, put the suggestion of a crisis at the club down to a "media circus" as he claimed the team were in a "good place."

He said: "I know there is responsibility at Celtic. I know it's about winning.

"We can win every tournament in Scotland and can be better in Europe than we were last year. So I see a lot of possibilities here. We are determined to reach our goals, to win trophies and progress in Europe.

"Football is up and down. It is never in a straight line up to heaven. Sometimes there are setbacks. Good teams bounce back and find reasons why they have a bad performance. That is what we have done. Same as we do after we win.

"Everybody was disappointed not to get into the Champions League and it can take a bit of time to get over it. But I think we have cleared the air now and can focus on getting forward. We still have so much to look forward to. That is how you progress. You have good and bad experiences. You have to move on and learn. That's what I mean by clearing the air.

"I think we are on our way up. We were disappointed at the weekend, but this is another stage in the season. We have six fantastic games to play in the Europa League and we want to get through the group. I think we are in a good place. We are ready to put in a good performance here, fight hard and get some points."

Indeed, Deila sounded somewhat defiant when putting his situation into context.

"I am lucky," he said.

"I am at the biggest club in Scotland. I have the best players in Scotland. I have a fantastic situation. It's just a case of getting the best out of this team and get them performing, something we have done so many times before in winning games and trophies. We can get a good result. That would be a great start to the group stage."

Celtic also have to tackle Norwegian side Molde and Turkish outfit Fenerbahce in their section and, asked what success in Europe would be, the former Stromsgodset boss said: "That is hard to say. We are in a tough group with good teams. Small things will make the difference.

"If we can get through the group, then anything can happen. First of all, the goal is to get through this group, that's the goal, finish in the top two and then see if we can play some football after Christmas."

Skipper Scott Brown admitted he and the team can improve.

He said: "I can play a lot better, of course I can.

"Everyone has ups and downs in their career, it is how they bounce back. I am strong mentally and physically and I will come back stronger and fitter. We need a little bit of luck as well.

"We have a lot to go until we reach where we were last season and hopefully we can reach those heights again." 

Ajax coach Frank De Boer believes there are similarities between the two clubs, who operate in a very different European landscape these days.

The former Rangers player said: "The Scottish league, like the [Dutch] league, cannot compete with the major European leagues.

"Both clubs also have a nice history, but that does not count anymore. Celtic are always the favourite in their own league, especially now Glasgow Rangers play in a lower league. We are also favourites as well and are also required to play good football.

"Celtic can make it tricky for anyone. I am confident that we can win, but it will be difficult. " 

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