Celtic manager Ronny Deila reaches his cup final on Tuesday night. Back in mid-July, when Celtic began their effort to qualify for the group stage of the Champions League, Deila described qualification as an end in itself: success.
Now Celtic have a 3-2 advantage over Malmo to push over the line in Sweden and, if they do, Deila and his players will deserve the praise that comes their way, plus the revenue, prestige and excitement of Champions League occasions at Celtic Park. This is a high-wire night for all at the club.
Tension has been increased by two factors from the first leg last Wednesday: Jo Inge Berget’s second Malmo goal five minutes into added time that turned a solid Celtic lead into a narrow, vulnerable one; then Malmo goalkeeper Johan Wiland’s post-match comments that Celtic’s players had behaved like “pigs”.
Deila has responded that his players are “lions”, not pigs. He could do with a couple of the Lisbon variety this evening.
Malmo looked like lambs for the first 20 minutes at Celtic Park last week and could have been more than 2-0 down, but recovered to play their part in a ding-dong match and feel confident that their 24,000-capacity stadium will inspire their return to the group stage they competed in last season. Captain Markus Rosenberg said the memory of Malmo’s home performance in the last qualifying round, when they overcame Salzburg’s 2-0 lead with three first-half goals, means they are comparatively relaxed about Celtic’s one-goal lead.
His manager, Age Hareide, remains annoyed by the “pigs” comment from Wiland, though not because he made it, but how it has been interpreted in Scotland.
“A pig is something else in English than it is in Scandinavia,” explained an angry Hareide yesterday. “To play like a pig is to play dirty. It was a tough game but it was not a dirty game.”
The pig remark has dominated airtime since the first leg and is not irrelevant, given the way the Celtic captain, Scott Brown, can be dragged into skirmishes. Brown was one of six yellow cards in the first leg.
Hareide’s own comment in Glasgow – that Celtic “do not have the legs for 90 minutes” – was more damning ... and more relevant.
If Hareide believes this, then Malmo are likely to play a patient, possession game with the aim of wearing down Celtic.
Deila addressed this part by resting nine of those who started against Malmo at Dundee United on Saturday. Celtic’s “B” team won 3-1.
Mikael Lustig, who was carried off against Malmo, is rated 50-50 and he could be the one switch from Glasgow.
This could let 19-year-old Saidy Janko, who was bought from Manchester United in the summer, make his European debut. Janko played at Tannadice and impressed.
As a unit, Celtic’s back four will need to do just that in Malmo.Reuse content