Having seen Celtic concede 26 goals in 21 European matches under his guidance so far, Ronny Deila might be reasonably expected to at least ponder adopting a more cautious approach against continental opposition.
But, whatever doubts may be expressed about Deila’s record beyond domestic level with the Scottish champions, no-one could ever accuse the Norwegian of lacking the courage of his footballing convictions.
As Fenerbahce roll up at Celtic Park for tonight’s potentially pivotal Europa League Group A fixture, Deila is refusing to give any thought to a safety-first or counter-attacking approach.
That is despite the Turkish side having been picked off expertly by Deila’s compatriots Molde when the Norwegian side recorded a shock 3-1 victory in Istanbul on matchday one two weeks ago.
Coupled with Celtic’s encouraging 2-2 draw against Ajax in Amsterdam, that has provided a platform for Deila’s side to claim a significant early advantage in the quest to reach the knockout stage of the tournament if they can claim all three points against Fenerbahce. Deila will set about achieving that aim by ordering his players to get on the front foot right from the start in front of an anticipated attendance of around 40,000.
He is seeking a repeat of the turbo-charged start they produced in the first leg of their Champions League play-off round tie against Malmo when they raced into a 2-0 lead inside the opening ten minutes.
Although that tie eventually went pear-shaped for Celtic, losing 4-3 on aggregate to the Swedes and dropping into Uefa’s second-tier tournament, Deila has not lost any faith in his attack-minded philosophy.
“We are at our best when we are offensive and when we are really at it from the first kick of the ball,” said Deila. “We have to use this fantastic atmosphere in the stadium to push Fenerbahce back.
“We saw with Malmo that they struggled in the first half against us and we had a lot of chances and had them under control for a long, long while. If we can get that performance over 90 minutes, we’re going to be hard to beat. So for me it has to be very clear – this is the match plan and we have to execute it with energy and belief. It’s always tough to beat a Scottish team when they are getting up to tempo.
“Molde beat Fenerbahce on the counter, but it’s different to be at home. It’s not my kind of football to hold back and play on the counter the whole game. We will not go out deep, wait for them and hope to beat them on a mistake. We want to attack them and cause them problems.”
Problems are not something Fenerbahce have had to seek this season. Like Celtic, they suffered a costly defeat in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League and have struggled for consistency under new coach Vitor Pereira. There have also been reports of dressing-room unrest, most notably in the case of marquee summer signing Robin van Persie’s discontent at not being given a regular place in the starting line-up.
Deila’s sole concern is the level of harmony among his own squad which he believes he has ensured is hugely positive.
“I don’t know what is going on at Fenerbahce and I don’t care either,” he added. “I have enough to deal with at Celtic.
“But it’s so important that you feel everyone is working towards the same goal. Then you use the energy of so many people going forward. That is the biggest task for a leader – to get everyone going in the same direction.
“The worst that can happen in a club is when you start talking about each other instead of to each other.
“I’m a very honest guy. I say what I think. I also expect people to talk straight to me rather than around me because that is a very important thing.
“When you have bad times, you have to solve them together. Without the players we are nothing. We need to have the players on board and do everything as a staff to make them as strong as possible.
“Then we get all the energy into the pitch. We can’t fight inside to get the energy. Honesty is important. If we have an issue then we deal with it. We find a solution and we move on. That happens with every player.
“A good manager has a sense of these things. If you have the time to look, then you can see an unhappy player. But if you are stressed and have too many things to do, you don’t see people. The most important thing for a manager is to see his players. I’m good at reading body language. If you see a player who doesn’t look you in the eye going past you, it is a cry for help. Of course it is. If you then go into a room and ask him what the problem is, you will get it out of him. Then you have to find a solution that makes him happy. Doing that means you have created energy rather than losing it.
“If you don’t care, then people will think that whatever you say will never happen. You lose belief in what you are doing. You start to get groups within the group and a war going on. Then it is very tough as a leader to keep progressing the team.”
Deila faces a selection dilemma at left-back tonight with Emilio Izaguirre suspended after his dismissal against Ajax and Charlie Mulgrew still sidelined by a calf injury which could yet force him to pull out of Scotland’s squad for next week’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Poland. On-loan Manchester United defender Tyler Blackett may get the nod ahead of highly-regarded 18-year-old Kieran Tierney.