CELTIC manager Ronny Deila obviously had a slip of the tongue or mind earlier this week or was being “arithmetically challenged” when he claimed that Celtic were going all out to win the “treble”.
Clearly he meant quadruple, didn’t he?
“What I will say is that we are definitely going to win the league,” was Deila’s quote. “The goal is the treble.”
Oops. For a Celtic manager to leave out a trophy in his targets will not earn the Norwegian any kudos with the Parkhead fans who want their heroes to win everything.
And for that missing trophy to be at European level is an error they will consider egregious, especially when the Europa League is the latest incarnation of the UEFA Cup in which Celtic so memorably reached the final in Seville in 2003.
It was just a vacant moment, however, though Deila was not as confident as former Celtic striker Chris Sutton, who played in Seville, and who last week voiced his view that his old club can, and should, go all the way in the Europa League, not least because victory in the tournament guarantees direct entry into the Champions League.
Deila was more sanguine as he previewed Thursday’s encounter with Dinamo Zagreb, the Croatian side which, like Celtic, has a European lineage of note.
The manager explained: “We have a goal to be in Europe every year and we want to be in the Champions League every year. If you don’t play European games you don’t get experience of that level of football.
“This competition is a good possibility to get experience and also go as far as possible. If you get through the group stages you don’t know what will happen.”
Perhaps not exactly a ringing declaration of intent to reach the final in Warsaw next May, but Deila is perhaps waiting until after the home tie against Zagreb. A win would put Celtic top on points at least of Group D after their away draw with Red Bull Salzburg, who visit Astra Giurgiu in Romania on the same night.
For Deila, it’s a second cup match in eight days, and he hopes to start an extended winning run in all competitions: “We want to win every game and we’re going the right way.
“We’re getting the players into the shape we want them in and I know that’s getting us results.”
Deila has done his homework on Zagreb: “They’re a good team but here at Celtic Park we have a good chance to win and that’s what we’re aiming for.
“In their first game (they beat Astra 5-1) they had the guy El Arbi Soudani who plays up front or coming in from the right. He’s strong.”
Indeed he is – El Arbi Soudani scored a hat-trick in the first half against Astra. So was that 5-1 hammering down to Zagreb being good or Astra being poor?
“I think it’s because they are a good side,” said Deila.
“They played a good game but it’s hard for me to say what level Astra are at. Zagreb scored with every chance they had in the first half, so when it’s 3-0 it’s tough for the other team.” Zagreb have not taken so much as a point in three visits to Scotland, and Deila wants that record to continue.
He said: “Celtic have been fantastic at home in Europe and that’s been the case for many years. We’ve had a good away game and we’re looking forward to a good game at home now.
“You can only really talk about us having had one home game – against Maribor, so we have to progress. We’re going the right way – we look like a team now and I enjoy that.”
No Celtic manager should have to appeal to the fans to back the Hoops, but no doubt concerned after the poor attendance at the League Cup match against Hearts in midweek, Deila emphasised how important the support can be in this tie.
He said: “I think the four teams are quite equal and it’s up to us to use our home advantage. It’s important.
“I’ve been here before when the stadium is full on a European night. It has an effect on the Celtic players and it has an effect on the opposition as well.
“We need them and they’re fantastic here, and I really hope they come to the game so we get the advantage of playing at Celtic Park.”
Those fans could be in for a treat, said Deila: “They have good players, but at home we’re a good team as well.
“Teams from the Balkans are always very good tactically – they do what they need to do to win games and I expect Zagreb to be the same.
“But they also have good attacking strength and they like to play football. I’m expecting it to be a very good game.”