HJK Helsinki coach insists his ‘underdogs’ can win against Celtic
HJK Helsinki coach Antti Muurinen insists his players will not be at Parkhead tonight to make up the numbers in the first leg of their Champions League third qualifier against Celtic.
The Finnish side arrived in Glasgow yesterday buoyed by their 9-1 aggregate win over KR Reykjavik in the last round and with 19 league games under their belt but finding themselves as underdogs despite Neil Lennon’s men looking forward to their first competitive game of the season. Before his squad trained at Celtic Park, Muurinen was respectful of the Scottish champions, but bullish in his attitude.
He said: “I told the players that we didn’t come all the way here to be afraid. Ninety-five per cent our time should be spent talking about how we play and 5 per cent about the way they play. There is no point in being in sport if you don’t believe in victory. Of course we recognise that Celtic are a very strong, powerful team, but we have to believe that we have a chance to win, even if there is a great imbalance between the teams.
“It will be an exciting experience for us. We are not expecting any surprises from Celtic. Their tactics will be to crush us which the fans expect. So I can expect the first 15 to 20 minutes to be the most important part of the game.”
Muurinen believes his side’s superior match fitness “could be a factor” over the two games. He added: “What could be an advantage is that we are well into our season, we have been playing games for months and Celtic are still in pre-season.
“As I understand Celtic Park can take 60,000 and that will bring a lot of heat on my players, but I want to believe in my players.”
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