Celtic manager Ronny Deila has admitted striker John Guidetti has picked “a good time” to begin scoring again as the Scottish champions prepare for the daunting task of trying to win at the San Siro stadium.
Celtic will travel in good spirits to face Internazionale on Thursday after yesterday’s 4-0 win over Hamilton Accies. They are seeking to earn the victory – or high-scoring draw – required to progress past the Italians, following the 3-3 draw in the first leg of their Europa League last 32 round clash.
After ten games without a goal, Guidetti struck the stoppage-time equaliser against Internazionale and then scored Celtic’s third goal yesterday against Hamilton as Deila’s side re-established their three-point lead at the top of the Premiership. This renewed impetus has pleased Deila and perhaps explains why the on-loan Manchester City striker is again the subject of reported interest from elsewhere. With permanent signing talks with Celtic appearing to have stalled, Marseille are said to have stepped back into the running to sign the striker after first expressing interest late last year.
“I hope he just keeps on now,” said Deila, when addressing the subject of Guidetti’s return to goalscoring form.
He then added a mildly critical reference to the player’s long spell without a goal. “He shouldn’t have had that long break either. But he is motivated and focused and that’s what I want to see. I want to see hungry players and he is one of them. He has to show he is ready to improve.”
On the subject of the reported interest from France, Delia responded: “I haven’t read that. There is a lot in the newspaper that is not true. I don’t know, it’s rumours. I think he should stay at Celtic,” he added. “But I have said that many times. He has been in and out of the team here. Why? Because he hasn’t been good enough. When he plays at his best level he is good enough and then he will play. Then he will develop. He is still young and hopefully he will want to stay at Celtic.”
Guidetti’s stock is rising again just as Anthony Stokes’ is falling. However, despite again excluding him from the match day squad, Deila insists the Irish striker has a future at the club. “Of course,” he said, when asked if Stokes, who returned late from a trip to Dublin last week, will play for Celtic again. Deila warned that Stokes must improve in order to win back his place in the side and insisted the player’s current predicament is because of poor form rather than ill-discipline.
“We are dealing with the other things and there’s no problem,” said Deila. “I’m always after development and Anthony has things he has to improve and work on. He’s very motivated to do that. We have a very strong squad and it’s very tough to play now. There are things we’ve been talking about for a long time and he has to step up on these things. He knows what they are and that’s his motivation.”
Stokes’ bid to regain a place in the squad is not helped by the number of other options at Deila’s disposal. As well as Guidetti, Deila saw Kris Commons make a goalscoring return to the starting line-up after his return from a hamstring injury. The midfielder scored twice to press home his claim for a starting berth in Italy on Thursday. “We have a very good squad and I’m fairly comfortable whoever I pick to play the game,” said Deila, who described his selection headache as a “celebration” rather than a dilemma.
“Selection problems?” he asked. “It’s a celebration instead. We need the players we have and it’s so good to pick players who are different as well. It depends how we want to play and we can pick players for that.”
Although he was replaced at half-time suffering from cramp, Jason Denayer should be fit to take his place in the centre of defence alongside Virgil van Dijk, who set up Celtic’s first two goals yesterday.
“It’s going to get bigger and bigger weeks all the time if we just keep on winning,” Deila said, with reference to the next six days, in which Celtic face clashes with Inter Milan and then title rivals Aberdeen.
He declined to speak out about the television-imposed schedule in which Celtic host Aberdeen at midday on Sunday, having travelled back from Milan in the early hours of Friday morning. “I could say something about that. I could do that,” said Deila. “But two hours or three hours more is not that hard I think. We are used to playing at 1pm and now it’s 12. Maybe soon we will play at 9am, I don’t know. It’s very early – for the fans as well – but we will be ready.”