Celtic captain Scott Brown is still waiting to discover whether he will have recovered from the knee injury he sustained against Kilmarnock at the weekend but he is confident that the Premiership leaders will prevail against Ajax at Parkhead on Thursday, with or without his presence.
The midfielder points out that his side would almost certainly have beaten the Dutch league leaders in Amsterdam had it not been for the dismissal of Emilio Izaguirre 17 minutes from the end.
With Ronny Deila’s side leading 2-1, the Honduran was shown a second yellow card for a reckless foul on Anwar El Ghazi and that numerical advantage allowed the hosts to ramp up the pressure, which, ultimately, led to Lasse Schone equalising in the 84th minute.
Celtic have yet to win a Group A match, but they are only one point behind Ajax and Brown draws succour from that.
“Ajax have always produced good players and they have some in the current team,” he said. “We’ve played them quite often in recent years and I enjoyed that. Hopefully, I’ll be able to enjoy this one as well. We did well in Amsterdam and we need to take the positives from that game. It was just a pity that Emilio Izaguirre was sent off over there and they came back to equalise, but these things happen in football and we need to bounce back. I think we showed that we could hurt them. We have some good young Scottish players coming through and I hope they can help to bolster the Scotland squad soon as well. A clean sheet would be good, but, as long as we score more goals than they do, I don’t really mind.”
Celtic’s defensive frailties have been all too evident in Europe this season, with 13 goals having been conceded in their last six ties.
However, Brown believes that having Jozo Simunovic, the £3.5million summer signing from Dinamo Zagreb, fully fit again should help them keep the back door locked. “Jozo’s looking good,” he said. “He’s looking sharp, he’s aggressive in the air and good on the ball so he definitely has good qualities. Hopefully, he’ll help us through to the next round.
“It was a big miss for us when he was out through injury. He’s a leader at the back and having one of them really helps.
“The big man has been brand new. Everyone has done their bit to make him feel welcome and he enjoys being at the club.
“He just wants to get a number of games under his belt now. He speaks well, which is good for the dressing room.”