Ronny Deila promised Celtic supporters he will have his team ready to qualify for the Champions League next summer, despite their abject failure in the Europa League this season.
The defiant Celtic manager insists only “small details” separate his team from finding the improvement necessary to reach the group stage of Europe’s elite tournament.
Deila may find many followers of the Scottish champions will struggle to share his optimism after they were eliminated from the Europa League with a game to spare last night.
Their 2-1 defeat at home to Ajax confirmed they will finish bottom of Group A, regardless of the outcome of their final fixture against Fenerbahce in Istanbul on 10 December.
Celtic have now gone ten Europa League games without a win under Deila, who has also presided over two unsuccessful attempts to qualify for the Champions League.
“We are going to be ready next year,” said Deila. “That’s the message to all the fans and that’s the task I have here with everybody else at this football club.
“I know it’s small details. I could see a lot of good spells in this performance but I know we need to be better with the small details to win games.
“I feel we are very close but it’s not good enough right now. But I believe we will be ready for the Champions League next season. I can see it’s only small details.
“If you can see the big picture you’ll see that also. We played two good games against Qarabag in the Champions League qualifiers before Malmö this season. We weren’t good enough in that away game against Malmö but it’s small details. But next year we are going to be better than teams like Malmö.”
Celtic’s performance level was improved last night, despite being without captain Scott Brown and playmaker Kris Commons through injury and the suspended midfield pair of Stefan Johansen and Nir Bitton.
Callum McGregor, one of many changes to Deila’s starting line-up, gave them a fourth-minute lead but that was cancelled out before half-time by Arkadiusz Milik before substitute Vaclav Cerny grabbed an 88th minute winner for Ajax.
“We started well and scored a beautiful goal by McGregor,” said Deila. “He played a very, very good game.
“After that we got too deep, we didn’t get high enough with pressure. Ajax didn’t create so much, they created the goal when we lost the ball in a dangerous area.
“In the second half, we created chances. They hardly had a chance before they scored, although they hit the post which was a big chance. We had chances to win it but we lost it because of a couple of really easy mistakes.
“You can say the damage was done before tonight but some of the same things happened again.
“There was more energy in the team, that was positive. We played good football and created some great chances. It was a very young team and you saw a lot of talent in it. But it was not good enough in the end.”
Ajax head coach Frank de Boer admitted his team were fortunate to take all three points which maintains their hopes of reaching the last 32 of the tournament.
“If you compare the chances, Celtic deserved to win, especially in the second half,” said De Boer. “I am very glad that luck was on our side today because a lot of times already this season it hasn’t been.”