CELTIC boss Ronny Deila is confident Stefan Johansen will return to top form against Molde in Thursday’s Europa League tie in his homeland.
The Norwegian midfielder has struggled to replicate the consistency that earned him last season’s Player of the Year plaudits from his fellow-professionals.
Johansen’s form has been erratic since the start of this campaign, but, after playing two games to help his country reach the Euro 2016 play-offs, Deila believes he has arrived back ready for the challenges ahead on the club front.
The Hoops gaffer said: “Stefan has had troubles with his back since pre-season.
“He has played, but has had issues. He also had a bad knock to his neck against Fenerbahce.
“However, you know with Stefan that you get 100 per cent hard work all the time.
“In my eyes, he is a winner. When you see him for Norway, he is the leader in the team. He dictates what’s going on.
“He is 24 years old and has a long career ahead, but when you play 70 games you can have dips.
“It’s my task to get him back to the level he can be as quickly as possible.
“He does everything in training now and is in a much better situation than he was. His neck problem stopped him playing against Hamilton.
“But he was back again for Norway and played the full 90 minutes in both matches. He should do well now in this period.”
Deila accepts he and Johansen will be the centre of attention for the Norwegian media, but said: “It’s just another game. They are coming all the time. You play in Milan against Inter then in Amsterdam against Ajax. You just go to work and go back again. You are in that bubble to perform.
“It’s always about the next task. I don’t have time to think about going to Norway. We need a good performance then, hopefully, we can be smiling on the plane back.
“Molde have been the best club in Norway for the last five years.
“Ole Gunnar Solskjaer went into the club and gave them a winning mentality. They have won a lot of trophies and have done things the right way.
“They have a good youth structure and have sold a lot of players abroad while developing others. Last year was the best season in their history. It’s tough to do it again – everybody wants to beat them.
“They had a bad start, like they also had with Solskjaer after the third season. But they have improved and done well in Europe.
“They are a team in progress and can cause problems in Europe as they have shown in their first two games, the win over Fenerbahce and the draw with Ajax.
“I’m not surprised – and I respect them for that. It shows that Norwegian football is going in the right direction.
“But I also know it is possible to beat them.”