RONNY Deila refused to get into a war of words with Malmo keeper Johan Wiland after he accused Celtic of acting like “pigs” and children in their Champions League play-off tie.
Ronny Deila has hit back at Malmö coach Age Hareide and his team, who have been very critical of his players in the wake of Celtic’s 3-2 victory in the first leg of their Champions League play-off at Parkhead on Wednesday.
Jo Inge Berget scored what may yet be a crucial second goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time, prompting Hareide to reiterate his belief that Celtic’s players are lacking in fitness, citing the concession of late goals in the preceding league matches against Kilmarnock and Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
Goalkeeper Johan Wiland went further, claiming that Celtic’s players were boorish.
“They are pigs, all of them: that’s the way it is,” he said, while team-mate Rasmus Bengtsson accused the home side of being more interested in sledging than in playing football.
Celtic manager Deila, though, was having none of it, arguing that his players belong higher up the food chain.
“I’ve watched the game again and I didn’t see anything wrong,” he said. “It was a fair game and remarks like that are just too low-level to comment on.
“We will not go to that level. It’s not the Celtic way to do that – it’s up to them if they want to talk about us.”
Asked which animal he would prefer his players to be compared to, he replied: “Lions! We are lions!”
It has already been quite a season for managerial feuds, what with John Collins v Derek McInnes and Mark Warburton v Alan Stubbs. Yesterday one was left with the impression that Deila does not much care for his fellow Norwegian. He certainly refuses to take Hareide’s fitness jibe seriously.
“For me, that’s funny,” he said. “As I remember, we won 3-2 on Wednesday. That is the first thing: we didn’t lose 3-0 or 4-0.
“We won the game and I’ve seen Mr Hareide very high up and very low down in Norway many times. He’s a funny guy and he tries to play these [mind] games and that’s something you just have to leave.
“Hopefully, he won’t ruin his own brain: that’s the most important thing. You need to ask him what kind of tactic that is.
“We are a very fit team and we played some great football on Wednesday and we’re really looking forward to Tuesday – it’s going to be a big game.”
Deila, though, dismissed suggestions that the slurs from the opposition camp would provide his players with an added incentive to eliminate them.
“I think the motivation for this game is no problem,” he said. “I don’t think we need any extra comments to do that.”
Nor does he expect any individuals to lose their composure. Instead, he takes succour from the fact that Celtic have gone 24 matches since they were last beaten over 90 minutes – by St Johnstone on 4 March.
“I trust my players,” he said. “We have all been through this so many times. The pressure at this club in every game is big.
“We have to see the facts and that is that we are 3-2 up. We were disappointed that we conceded a last-minute goal. We know 3-1 would have been a better result for us but 3-2 is still a win and they have to beat us in Malmö. We have played a lot of games now, several months, without losing. We have a good confidence in the team and we put a very strong performance down in Qarabag. That is what we want to do in Malmö as well, but first it is Dundee United.”
The champions face United at Tannadice today and Deila will make changes from the side which beat the Swedes.
Right-back Mikael Lustig misses out after being forced off with a hamstring problem but Deila claimed he may be available for the return leg. “The injury is not as bad as we first thought,” he said. “He is not going to be available for tomorrow but may be okay for Tuesday, although that may be too early for him.
“But we’ve seen the scans and it’s not a big thing, which is very positive. We will see how he is tomorrow and Sunday before we decide whether or not he travels to Sweden with us.”