Ronny Deila has dismissed the notion that tomorrow’s Scottish Cup semi-final is a game he must win to preserve his job as Celtic manager, insisting there is just as much pressure on Rangers to live up to the plaudits they have received this season.
Celtic are odds-on favourites to prevail in the Old Firm clash at Hampden but Deila has discounted Rangers’ status as firm outsiders in the eyes of the bookmakers.
Deila, who met Rangers manager Mark Warburton for the first time at yesterday’s pre-match media event at the national stadium, highlighted the fact that the Ibrox club still have the second biggest playing budget in Scottish football.
“It’s not like we are playing a small team, you know,” said the Norwegian. “We are playing the second biggest. You should expect them to be on a level with Aberdeen, Hearts and those clubs.
“They can be that good and this is going to be their test to show that they are. They have the second highest budget. Now it is the time for them to show how good they are.
“Everyone wants to play us up as big, big favourites but the truth is that Rangers are top of their league, they have won the Championship.
“It is easy to say that it looks like we are going to play Stromsgodset or something. That’s not right. We are playing a big club here.”
Deila is now firmly on course to retain the Scottish Premiership title in his second season at Celtic, with the champions now eight points clear of their nearest challengers Aberdeen at the top of the table with just five games remaining.
But, after significant disappointments in Europe and the League Cup earlier in the campaign, doubts remain over Deila’s longer term future, with many observers suggesting only a Premiership and Scottish Cup double can keep him in the job beyond the summer.
The 40-year-old, however, remains relaxed about his own position and insists tomorrow cannot be viewed as a “must-win” fixture for him.
“You don’t ‘have’ to do anything in football,” said Deila. “You can’t think like that. There is nothing to defend on Sunday, because we are not Scottish Cup holders. We have an opportunity here to win and get to the final. It’s one game.
“I get asked every week what happens if we lose this. I am not thinking about ‘what ifs’. In my mind, we are going to win this game.”