Stefan Johansen: united Celtic are ready for Inter

Stefan Johansen celebrates after scoring his side's second goal against St Johnstone. Picture: SNS

Stefan Johansen celebrates after scoring his side's second goal against St Johnstone. Picture: SNS

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STEFAN Johansen believes Celtic are now up to European speed ahead of their clash with Inter Milan at Parkhead on Thursday night.

The Hoops were thrashed 6-1 on aggregate by Legia Warsaw in their Champions League third qualifier in the summer and despite getting another chance due to an administrative error by the Polish club, they were then knocked out of the play-off by Slovenian side NK Maribor, which meant dropping down to the Europa League.

However, the Scottish Premiership leaders go into the first-leg of the last-32 tie in top form having won 2-1 at St Johnstone on Saturday to make it eight successive wins.

Striker Leigh Griffiths opened the scoring after only 35 seconds and Johansen added a second early in the second half before Michael O’Halloran pulled a goal back for the home side.

Ronny Deila’s side now turn their attention to Inter with Johansen firmly believing they are now more equipped for the European task.

The 24-year-old Norwegian midfielder said: “Everyone is looking forward to a full Celtic Park on Thursday, the atmosphere will be good and hopefully we can follow up Saturday with a win.

“We are starting to understand how the gaffer wants us to play, we’re getting fitter and better, and we all work hard for 90 minutes.

“We’re more confident on the ball now, we have more possession and create more chances these days.

“We keep on winning and the team spirit is very good.

“The tie is over two legs, so you never know what it needs, but we will be trying to win the game at home in front of our own fans.

“Every team knows what Celtic Park is a difficult place to come.

“Inter Milan are a very good team but we need to go into it believing we can win. It’s going to be a great game.”

St Johnstone gave Celtic their toughest 90 minutes this year and the Hoops may have left Perth with only a point had keeper Craig Gordon not pulled off a great double save from substitute Brian Graham and skipper Dave Mackay late in the game.

Johansen said: “It was the toughest game we have played in recent weeks but it’s what we expected.

“We have played three matches in a week and it’s never easy going there.

“St Johnstone are a good team who fight hard so we knew it would be difficult.

“The pitch was also very difficult but we got the two goals and were happy.”

Saints have gone four league games without a win and dropped into seventh place.

However, manager Tommy Wright remains confident of a top-half finish.

He said: “I was pleased with the performance overall and if we take that type of performance into the next eight games (before the split) I think we will get enough points to get into the top six.”

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