Ronny Deila expects to be handed funds to improve his injury-depleted squad as Celtic seek to withstand Aberdeen’s title challenge and prepare for next season’s Champions League qualifiers.
Deila wants Celtic to begin next year like they started this year – on the front foot.
Boosted by the eventual double capture of Gary Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong from Dundee United, Celtic turned the screw on their Pittodrie rivals by embarking on an eight-game winning run in the league.
With injuries to key players such as leading goalscorer Leigh Griffiths and skipper Scott Brown further restricting his personnel options, the onus is on Deila to ensure Celtic recover from a dip in form in which they have dropped five points in their last two games against Motherwell and Hearts. It was the same story this time last year, when they dropped five points in successive games against Dundee United and Ross County. But they bounced back to consolidate their position at the top of the league.
The champions travel to face Dundee tonight while sitting just a point clear of second-placed Aberdeen, who are at home to Partick Thistle. Deila confirmed he is in the process of identifying signing targets for when the transfer window opens later this week.
“Whatever happens we need to strengthen in January and we will work hard on that,” he said.
“You have to get signings who can do better and hopefully get us into Champions League qualification. You have to think long-term but also short-term.
“It’s a tough window because nobody wants to lose their players when they are in the middle of the season. It’s always tougher but we did some good transfers last January and hopefully we can do it now as well.”
“There is money,” he added. “Everybody is in the same mind, they know we have to do things. People in the club are prepared to do that.”
Celtic spent a reported £2 million when signing Mackay-Steven and Armstrong at the start of February to narrowly beat the transfer window deadline.
Although both players have found life more difficult this season they were able to make a quick impact at the start of their Celtic careers. Mackay-Steven scored on his debut against Partick Thistle and ended up with four goals by the end of the season. Armstrong also scored on his debut in the same match and struck again against Internazionale shortly afterwards.
After admitting he was relieved to hear Aberdeen wasted the opportunity to go above Celtic in the league by being held 2-2 by Inverness on Saturday, Deila is focused on the up-coming 3 February meeting between the teams.
“We are competitive, we want to win the league as quickly as possible, so when our biggest rival is losing points it’s a bonus for us,” he said.
“I think it’s in my diary,” he added, with reference to the appointment with Aberdeen in just over four weeks’ time. “It’s going to be a big day but, again, there are many games before that. We have the [League Cup] semi-final [v Ross County] coming up before that as well.”
Deila conceded 2015 had been a “rollercoaster” for him as he reflected on his first calendar year as Celtic manager.
“We had a very positive last part of the 2014-15 season,” he said. “A double, a couple of good games in Europe. And then we started well in Europe this season but got a blow against Malmö.
“After that we lost some players. We had to reorganise a little bit and that affected us I think, especially in the defence. The results in Europe weren’t good enough. Having said that, in the league we are in a good position. We are still in everything in Scotland. So sometimes it’s grey, not black or white.”