RONNY DEILA reckons Celtic are getting close to touching the first trophy of the season. The Celtic manager was at Hampden today with the managers of Ross County, Hibs and St Johnstone as the four clubs prepare for this weekend’s League Cup semi finals.
“A semi-final is where you start to get close to touching the trophy,” said Deila.
“We want to win every game and to play semi-finals is something we enjoy. We did it twice last year. We had a final too and we want to be here again.”
Celtic beat lower league opposition in the League Cup semi-final last February, with Leigh Griffiths making history as the first Celtic player to score a goal against The Rangers, the club formed by founding father Charles Green in 2012 after Rangers FC went into liquidation.
In the other semi-final, in the Scottish Cup, Celtic lost out to eventual cup winners Inverness with a refereeing error being held responsible for this loss. Celtic were winning 1-0 when a goalward bound Leigh Griffiths effort was handled on the goal-line, thus preventing a second Celtic goal. Instead of awarding a penalty and sending off the Inverness player, the match officials choose to ignore the most blatant penalty incident of the season.
Nevertheless Deila remains confident ahead of Sunday’s 3pm kick off against Ross County and he is pleased with his side’s current form and fitness levels.
“We have taken some steps lately and have taken some rest and there’s a lot of energy in the boys,” the Celtic manager said.
“Nothing comes without work but if we keep the tempo and intensity we know we can beat anybody.
“I think this is the best form of the season. Lately we have done it over several games so that’s been good.”
Deila also referred to the punishing schedule that Celtic players have these days, certainly in comparison to players at other top Scottish clubs. With that in mind he is mindful of the need for players to rest up as well as train and recognizes the necessity for Celtic to have a bigger squad than the other clubs.
“Rest is very important but that’s how it has always been when you play so many games,” observed Deila.
“We play almost 50% more than the other teams so that’s why we need a big squad and why we change the team.”
While last year’s League Cup semi-final had a much higher profile and was a sell-out – the lower league club even issued a souvenir t-shirt to commemorate their first ever major semi final (bless them), this time around the crowd will be nowhere near as big.
“It’s a little bit different from last year but it’s going to be as tough. We need to put in a good performance” said the Celtic boss.
Celtic lost to Ross County in the Scottish Cup semi-final back in 2010, just after Neil Lennon took over as interim manager. Deila wasn’t in any mood to recall that game today.
He said, “we talked about the 2010 Ross County game last year as well so it’s a day we don’t want to remember.”
“We want to look forward. It’s a big chance and we’ve been in good shape lately.”
If you are thinking about heading to Hampden on Sunday to support the Bhoys, it is worth noting that tickets for Under-16s are only £5.
Tickets for Sunday’s game – January 31 (KO: 3pm) – are on sale from the Celtic Ticket Office at Celtic Park only, priced £20 adults and £5 Under-16.
The Home Cup Ticket scheme does not apply for this match. All Season Ticket Holders must purchase a ticket for this match.
The Ticket Office is open Monday to Friday, 9.30am ‘til 5pm and also this Saturday, January 30 from 9am until 12noon for supporters wanting to buy their tickets.
Celtic advise all Season Ticket Holders to ensure that, when purchasing tickets for this match, all client references are given at the time of booking to ensure that records reflect attendance at this match.