RONNY DEILA has issued a personal guarantee of victory for Celtic in Malmö tonight, insisting he is thriving on the pressure attached to what is widely regarded as the defining moment of his managerial tenure at the Scottish champions.
Celtic take a 3-2 lead into the second leg of their play-off tie in Sweden with a place in the group stage of the Champions League, worth around £20 million to the club, on the line.
For Deila, the finances are secondary to the value that participation with Europe’s elite would have for his personal credibility as a top-level coach.
After suffering humiliation and then disappointment in his first attempt at qualification last year with the defeats by Legia Warsaw and Maribor, the Norwegian’s reputation would be significantly diminished by a second successive failure to guide Celtic through their seeded path to the group stage.
Deila is supremely confident of avoiding that scenario, however, despite the play-off being placed on a knife edge when Malmö scored their second away goal of the tie in the fifth minute of stoppage time at Celtic Park last Wednesday.
“We are going to win this game,” he said as Celtic arrived in a rainy southern Sweden yesterday afternoon.
“That’s the only thing I’m thinking of. We are coming to Malmö to win. We can talk about the positive things. We have a very, very good chance. We are good enough to do it. It’s just about going out there and doing it.
“Yeah, I feel pressure all the time. When you have big goals, the pressure is unbelievably strong. But that’s what you have to cope with when you are a player and a manager.
“You have to use your energy to get the best performance possible. You cannot think about ‘if’, you cannot think about if you win and if you lose. You have to think ‘what can I do now to be best prepared?’
“You can look at this negatively and speak only about the pressure. But we are leading 3-2. We showed at Celtic we can cope with their team and we have skills in our team to win this game. That’s what we have to focus on.”
Malmö have a formidable recent European record at their own Swedbank Stadium where they have not even conceded a goal in qualifying matches since drawing 1-1 with Rangers in 2011.
But Deila believes that is more than countered by Celtic’s recent resilience on the road, having not suffered defeat in any away fixture since the 1-0 reversal against Inter Milan at the San Siro in February.
“I am very, very positive,” added Deila. “We haven’t lost away from home for six months now. We are coming here with a lead and we showed at Celtic Park we can cause Malmö problems. That’s what we are going to do on Tuesday night. Of course I think we’re a better team than Malmö – if I didn’t think like this, we wouldn’t have a chance of making the Champions League.
“Why should I sit here and be negative? I will say to you how it is, every time I talk with you. I have been honest with you from day one. And I will say it again – I know the situation very clearly.
“We are 3-2 up. We showed in the first game we know how to cope with Malmö.
“If we get the best performance, we have a good chance to win. That’s what I see and that’s what I go for.
“If you play the best you can and you don’t succeed, then you have still done everything you could do. But I know that if we play at our best that we have a very good chance to beat Malmö. So, again, it is up to us to be prepared and to be the best we can be. If you meet Real Madrid and you are the best you can be, they still have to have a bad day for us to win. That is different. But here we are going to play a team that we’ll have chances to beat. We have a very, very good chance.”