JOHN COLLINS admits he is expecting a tough test in their Champions League third qualifying tie against Qarabag at Parkhead tomorrow night.

The Azerbaijani champions will arrive in Glasgow after winning 1-0 in Montenegro against Rudar Pljevlja last week.
The Hoops assistant manager insists the club have done their homework and are wary of the threat from a side who were denied a place in the knock-out stage of last season’s Europa League when they were controversially denied a late winner against Inter Milan.

Collins said: “They are a good football team and they like to knock the ball about. They have a couple of Brazilians who are very good, very talented players.

“Last year in the Europa League they did very well, they were in the same group as St Etienne and Inter Milan – we watched those games and they played very well.

“They are a good football team and we’re looking forward to them coming here, but at the end of the day it’s important we play well.

“I don’t think Celtic supporters are daft. They know there are a lot of good football teams out there, especially when you are in the Champions League.

“They have got talent, but we’ve got lots of talent in our team, too. We know we’ll have to be focused for 90 minutes, total concentration, because at this level if you make a mistake you get punished.”

Celtic cruised through the last qualifying tie with a 6-1 aggregate victory over Icelandic champions Stjarnan, and Collins insists everyone at the club is prepared for a greater challenge over two legs this time around.

He said: “There is no doubt it is a big step up from the last opponents, technically they are much better, tactically, as well, probably physically they are in better condition.

“But we’ve watched them, we know all about them, we know their strengths and weaknesses and we know we’ll have to play well to win the game.

“We always love playing here at Celtic Park, there is always a great atmosphere and the home support gets behind the players and drives us forward, so we are looking forward to another great occasion at Celtic Park.

“We are constantly learning and developing and analysing performances, that’s what we do. Win or lose we study our performances and see how we can get better.

“But, of course, we learned last season.We knew it was always going to be difficult once you get to the Champions League because there is always quality in the opposition and if you lose concentration the ball can end up in the back of your net.

“The message is there for the players. We’ve shown them lots of video and we’ve got to be at it on Wednesday night.

“As a group of players and a coaching staff, we are way ahead of where we were this time last year.

“We were new to the players and the players were new to us, but we’ve had 12 months working together, so we’re in a much better position.”

Click Here for Comments >

About Author