RONNY DEILA is looking for Celtic to hold their own in the frantic early stages of Sunday’s Scottish League Cup semi-final against Rangers at Hampden Park before showing their football prowess.
It is the first meeting between the two Glasgow rivals in almost three years, since the Ibrox club re-emerged at the bottom tier of Scottish football following their descent into administration and liquidation and tensions are running high.
The Hoops boss admitted his first Old Firm game is the biggest in his career so far and having previously watched it on television, he expects it to have a typically feisty start.
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However, Deila, who only has midfielder Charlie Mulgrew missing from his squad with a knee injury, is looking for his players to come out on top against the Championship side who are unarguably inferior in quality, before playing their football.
“Every game against Rangers has been physical and we have to be up for that,” said the Norwegian.
“Especially at the start of the game, there is going to be a lot of emotion and energy but it will settle down and then we have to show the quality.
“We have to take the fight to them, show them who is dominant on the pitch and then we have to play.”
Deila played down expectations of an easy win among some Celtic fans, saying: “Anything can happen in the cup.”
However, although he was keen to highlight the relative financial strength of Rangers in terms of their playing budget, saying it is the “second biggest in Scotland” he concedes they are not the second best team in the land.
“There are five or six teams they would be among,” he said. “I would not say they are the second best team.
“We have confidence because we have had a lot of good results and performances lately.
“But we have to treat every opponent with respect and as I said, anything can happen in the cup.”
For Deila’s assistant, John Collins, the game cannot come quickly enough.
The former Hoops midfielder told CelticTV: “We know it is going to be a challenge but these are the games that we all dream about, where you are playing in big games and full stadiums.
“When you walk out of that tunnel at Hampden, it’s a great feeling and that’s why we come to work every day - to get better and to win things.”