CELTIC manager Ronny Deila is braced for a formidable test in Poland this Wednesday against a side he believes are just as hopeful of making the Champions League as his own club.
Legia Warsaw manager Henning Berg has said the Scottish champions are favourites to qualify from the third qualifying round tie.
And while Deila is comfortable enough with his side being deemed the most likely to progress, he insists that the Poles have invested enough money in their team to be taken seriously.
Speaking after watching his fringe men lose 1-0 to St Pauli in a friendly in Germany on Saturday, the Celtic manager said: “If they want to say we are favourites, it’s okay by me. Legia have put a lot of money into the Champions League and I know how important it is for them. It is for us, as well. Celtic is a big club and we want to be favourites in every game.
“It’s going to be a difficult match against Legia, but every opponent is difficult now. Legia are much stronger than KR Reykjavik – it’s a step up.
“They are going to be exciting games and we have a good chance. We will go into the match on Wednesday and do our best to get through to the next round.”
Striker Anthony Stokes has recovered from injury and will be available to face Legia, although the Irishman wasn’t involved in Germany on Saturday as Deila left most of his first-choice players at home to prepare for the trip to Poland.
The manager named a young, shadow side featuring several Under-20 players. The most prominent players to feature were Amido Balde, Nir Biton, Liam Henderson and Tony Watt, while Craig Gordon and Lukasz Zaluska shared goalkeeping duties. Celtic threatened early on, with Bahrudin Atajic firing wide with a low shot. Balde then spurned a great chance when he collected possession on the edge of the box and surged into the area, but home goalkeeper Philipp Tschauner denied him.
Celtic’s young team were holding their own and Biton pinged a shot over from the edge of the box.
Celtic fell behind in 38 minutes when Sebastian Schachten seized on a slip by Filip Twardzik to set up Christopher Nothe, who fired past Gordon.
Celtic used the interval to bring on Zaluska for Gordon and and Paul McMullan for Balde.
St Pauli goalscorer Nothe blew a great chance to double his side’s lead, but he volleyed over from close range.
Watt had been causing problems from his wide-left berth but it was only when he was moved into a more central position that he had a decent sight of goal, firing a stinging shot from the right which brought a good save by Tschauner.
St Pauli spurned a couple of good chances to extend their advantage and they almost paid the price when Celtic were awarded a penalty with four minutes left after McMullan was brought down by Tom Trybull as he burst into the box.
Watt grabbed the ball to try to take the penalty, but Deila told the Scot to give it to Atajic. Watt was none too pleased and his mood worsened when his Bosnian team-mate blazed his spot-kick over the bar.
Deila said: “Buahrudin had been told before the game that he would hit the penalties. Maybe Tony didn’t know that. I told Tony he was involved in the miss because Bahrudin lost his concentration when he had to run after the ball.”