STEFAN JOHANSEN has warned Celtic they face a physical battle when they take on Qarabag in the Champions League third qualifying round at Parkhead on Wednesday.
The Norwegian international faced the Azerbaijan team twice in Euro 2016 qualifiers – and he admitted it was far from an easy ride.
But the 26-year-old midfielder is confident the Hoops can more than hold their own in a crucial scrap.
He said: “Qarabag have a few Brazilians and a Spaniard and it’s difficult to say what they’ll be like because I haven’t seen enough of them.
“But their national team played with fight, they played hard. It’s never easy to go there.
“Azerbaijan played very physically and it was a tough game for us, but I think Celtic can get a good result.
“They tried to play football as well, but they give you nothing, so it’s going be tough for us.”
Reflecting on his previous visit to Baku last November, Johansen added: “It wasn’t the best pitch.
“It was a bit cold when we were there and they just painted the grass green. If you fell down, you were all green.
“It’s always tough, especially in Europe, to go away and play, but I’m confident we can go there and get a good result.”
Johansen knows a convincing win in the first leg in Glasgow is vital ahead of the gruelling trip to Azerbaijan.
He said: “Home is where we need to build the result. We had a 2-0 win to go away with last week to Stjarnan and you always know if you get the away goal then it’s more or less secure.
“So, it’s very important we do the job at home and we need to use the next couple of days to prepare as well as we can for them.”
Boss Ronny Deila reckons Celtic are in better shape in their bid to qualify for the group stages than they were this time last year.
His debut campaign saw the Hoops forced to settle for the Europa League after failing to come through the Champions League qualifying rounds.
But Deila believes his players will be up to the challenge this time around.
He said: “In terms of being physically ready, we are a totally different team compared to last season.
“We will start showing the players footage of Qarabag on Monday or Tuesday. It is going to be a very big challenge for us.
“You just need to look at their results last year in the Europa League to know it’s going to be a very competitive game.
“This is a big challenge, so we need to recreate the atmosphere and performance we saw against Inter Milan.”
In addition to booking their place at Europe’s top table, Deila has his sights set on a season of domestic dominance.
He said: “I have been very clear in my goals for the season – reach the Champions League and win everything in Scotland, play attacking football and develop the club and the culture here in the way we play and our style.
“I can’t be more clear than that. I will try to tick those boxes.”
The Celtic boss refused to rule out further activity in the transfer market before the window shuts.
He added: “Something always happens in the last month of the transfer window, but I am looking forward to September 1.”