HE MAY hold Age Hareide in high regard but that won’t diminish Ronny Deila’s determination to oversee the downfall of his Norwegian compatriot as they lock horns in pursuit of Champions League prestige.
Deila has already seen Hareide off the premises once before, so to speak, during a three-year spell when they went head-to-head in the Norwegian League.
When Hareide was sacked by Viking Stavanger in June 2012, Strømsgodset topped the table under the emerging star of Norwegian coaches in Deila who suffered just one defeat in five meetings between their teams.
Eclipsing 61-year-old Hareide over two legs of Champions League play-off action will carry even greater significance for Deila as he faces the acid test of his tenure as Celtic manager to date.
Deila could scarcely be more confident ahead of tonight’s first encounter with Malmö in Glasgow. His faith in the 4-2-3-1 formation he has adopted consistently since taking charge of the Scottish champions just over a year ago has become absolute.
Any prospect of a tactical tweak to try and outfox Hareide was dismissed out of hand by Deila. He believes his favoured system will prove irresistible against the Swedish champions if it is carried out properly by his players.
I know that when we play our system well, it is not possible to stop usRonny Deila
“I know what Hareide is coming here with and he has played against my systems before as well,” said Deila. “I know that when we play our system well, it is not possible to stop us. He knows as well. So it’s more about getting what we believe in out there on the pitch.
“Hareide and me are different, but we also have similarities. He is a very charismatic man with a lot of energy who gets his players to believe in winning games.
“He has a lot of experience both as a player and a coach. He is a coach I respect and it is going to be a good challenge for me.
“I know if we play our system well, we will always get opportunities and be hard to play against.
“We are just at the start of building the system but we have come quite far over the past year and that is giving me a lot of confidence going into these games.
“You have to believe in the system. We have a very clear system we play with and that will be the future for us.
“It has brought us to where we are now and it’s just the start. We have to do the things we have done for a year as well as possible. That’s courage. That’s what we believe in and the most important thing. The players and the system done well are the things that will take us through to the Champions League.”
As respectful as he is of the threat posed by Malmö, Deila believes Celtic hold all the aces when comparing the teams.
“Malmö have been getting better in the last few weeks,” he said. “They have made a couple of good signings and they are better than they were two months ago.
“They beat Salzburg again in the last round, although I don’t know how good Salzburg are compared to last year when we played them. We will get the answers on Wednesday night.
“In Malmö’s best periods, they could challenge Celtic for the title if they were playing in the Scottish league. But they couldn’t do it for a long time. The money and stability is much better at Celtic and we are a much bigger club than Malmö.
“If I had to choose between the Malmö squad and my squad, I would choose my squad. We are individually stronger than them.”
Conventional wisdom suggests that preventing Malmö from scoring an away goal should be one of the biggest priorities for Celtic as they look to take control of the tie ahead of next Tuesday’s return leg in Sweden. Deila insists he will not compromise his attacking principles in pursuit of a clean sheet but does feel his team have learned the lessons of the gung-ho approach in their 3-3 draw at home to Inter Milan as their European campaign came to an end last season.
“I can be a little bit naïve at times with the way I want to play,” he added. “Naïve is maybe a stupid word, but I believe we can do it if we play together as a team. I believe football is entertainment.
“I said that from my first days here, my dream is for Celtic to be kings of our castle here. We have to attack and we will always do that.
“That’s important because it will develop players and teams in the end. You also get good results that way.
“So we will be our normal selves against Malmö, the same way we have done over the past year. That’s what will make us go through. I really believe that and I know the players have the quality to get through.
“I’m not saying we are going to have 100 per cent control of the game and play it all in their half. But we do want to be in their half as much as possible.
“We also have to defend well and play with balance. We did a lot of good things against Qarabag in the last round, especially defensively.
“We almost can’t be better than we were against Qarabag because we did not concede any chances.
“Against Inter Milan we were open and we learned a lot from that game. We did well in the away game against Inter and we have learned as we have played more European games.
“If we are totally dominant and create a lot of chances I will not be happy with 1-0 against Malmö. I will want more. But if it is a tight game and we get 1-0, I will take it.”