CELTIC manager Ronny Deila believes his title-winning squad are good enough to make a positive impact in the Champions League next season, regardless of how successful he is in adding to it during the summer transfer window.
Deila completed a memorable first campaign in the job yesterday when Celtic collected the Scottish Premiership trophy at Parkhead following an emphatic 5-0 victory over Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
In winning a fourth successive domestic crown, Celtic finished 17 points clear of nearest rivals Aberdeen and conceded a post-war top-flight record of just 17 goals.
Deila also claimed the League Cup in a debut season which started badly when his team were knocked out of the Champions League twice in the qualifying rounds, losing to Maribor after receiving an administrative reprieve following a 6-1 aggregate defeat by Legia Warsaw.
Reaching the group stage of the Champions League is now the priority for Deila next season and the Norwegian coach is confident he already possesses the tools required.
“I think we are still in a good position, even if we don’t add anyone else before the qualifiers,” said Deila.
“I’m not worried. I know that the players who are here already are the ones who are going to do the main job. We were in a totally different place last year with a lot of uncertainties. They felt unsafe with what I wanted to put into the team. The transition is so hard. We struggled with that.
“Now we have a foundation to work on. You can see that everyone on the pitch knows their tasks and have a good togetherness. We know what is ahead of us and it motivates us.”
One player who may yet have a part to play in Celtic’s next Champions League campaign is Serbian international striker Stefan Scepovic.
The 25-year-old has often cut a forlorn figure at the club since his £2.3 million move from Sporting Gijon last August but he returned to the starting line-up yesterday for the first time since January to score twice in Celtic’s romp against Inverness.
“I was talking a lot with Stefan before the game,” added Deila. “He knew what I expected from him – hard work and quick reactions. We know he can score goals but I think he worked really, really hard today and showed that he is capable of doing what we ask him to do. Everyone will get a chance next season. He is in our squad, so he is one of them. He had a good game today. I have no plans to speak to his agents. I will speak to the player, not the agent – it’s much better!
“As I said to every player, progress is everything. We are very close to the players and give them feedback on everything they do. When they do what you expect them to do, then they have a future here because they are improving all the time.
“Stefan has struggled a little bit to get into the physical side of Scottish football but today he showed he is capable of doing it. I’m very happy for him.
“Of course he wants to stay here. He wants to succeed here. But everyone wants to play football, that’s the hardest part for me to manage. We need competition and we need a squad who can stay over 70 games or so a season.”
Deila savoured his first title party at Celtic Park in which the Premiership trophy was carried out on to the pitch at the end of the match by his twin daughters, Thale and Live. “It was a very good experience, a fantastic day,” smiled Deila. “I was very happy with the performance. We didn’t have anything to play for except our honour and I think the players did that in a brilliant way.
“The atmosphere was great. We got the trophy and it was great to see so many people excited about it. Inverness left out a lot of players and had a cup final to think about, but we still had to play the game. We controlled it from the first to the last minute. We have also set a record for the number of goals conceded in the league this season. That’s a great achievement, so I’m happy for Craig Gordon and the defence.”