Scott Brown admits Europa League football would be an anti-climax for Celtic, but is confident they have developed an unshakeable mentality which will ensure they reach the Champions League group stage again.
The Scottish champions fly to Trondheim today for the second leg of a third qualifying round tie against Rosenborg which is finely balanced after a 0-0 draw in Glasgow.
Elimination at this stage would see Celtic handed the consolation of dropping into the Europa League play-off round, but Brown insists they are no longer prepared to settle for second best in continental competition.
“That’s the main thing for us, we want Champions League football,” said the Celtic captain.
“This club deserves it and now we need to go and try and get it. The Europa League is not in our thinking, we want to get into the Champions League. This is the big one. This is a cash windfall for the club as well and this pushes us on to the next level yet again.
“If we can get into it two years in a row it’s great for the club and great for the players’ confidence as well.
“This is a totally different Celtic team from any that I have played in before. We have that belief that we can go anywhere and score goals, even when we are playing against some of the top teams in the world. We played against Manchester City away last season and pressed them up the park, made them make mistakes and we got a goal from that.
“It is totally different from the old Celtic where we used to sit back and get 12 per cent of the ball against Barcelona, although we won that game 2-1. It is a
different manager with a different philosophy and he believes we have enough energy that we can go and press teams and create chances and we have good players as well.
“There’s a belief, even from the fans as well they believe we can go through whether we are playing at home or away. That’s brought in from the manager and his backroom staff. That’s been battered into us, to relax and take the ball under pressure when there are two or three men on you and keep possession when you are away from home.”
Brown is “not sure” whether Leigh Griffiths will win his battle to recover from a calf injury in time to lead the line for Celtic in the Lerkendal Stadium tomorrow. With Moussa Dembele ruled out for a month with a hamstring problem, Celtic could again be without a recognised striker in their line-up.
“Leigh has been getting physio and treatment and the wee man is trying his best to be fit for the game,” added Brown.
“We have a manager who is very relaxed and he understands what we have to go out there to do. He knows that if we go out there and deliver then we’ve got a great chance. I know we didn’t have any strikers in the first leg, but we still created chances and we need to put the ball in the back of the net.”
Brown is the epitome of intense focus with his trademark thousand-yard stare when he leads Celtic into action but he admits the tension still affects him ahead of the big occasions.
“You always get nervous because I want this as much as any fans does and the manager wants it as much as any fans does,” he added.
“So you get nervous, but you also have to have that wee bit of belief and if we get a wee bit of luck we can get that away goal.
“A couple of hours before, when you are sitting thinking about it, the nerves are there. But then when you go out there, it’s game face. You go out and make sure you know your job and make sure you help your mate out as much as possible.
“Yeah, I’ll mess around on the training ground and stuff. But as soon as we go on the training pitch I work hard and I enjoy my job so I need to make sure I’m improving every day and it’s not about messing about - this is huge for us.
“This is Celtic, it’s not about going down and playing with your mates and having a bit of banter with them. This is life or death. You have to win games. That’s why I’m still here after ten years.”