JOHN COLLINS insists Celtic’s Champions League play-off opponents Malmo are a team to be reckoned with.
The Hoops assistant manager was impressed by the Swedish side’s tenacity to overturn a two-goal deficit with a 3-0 home win over Salzburg.
The Austrians also lost 3-0 at Malmo in the Champions League qualifiers last season s the Swedes made the group stages.
Celtic made the play-offs with a goalless draw against Qarabag in Azerbaijan for a 1-0 aggregate win and Collins was relieved to avoid another long trek given that the other options were Israel, Kazakhstan, Albania or Serbia.
Collins, who revealed fitness doubts over Scott Brown and Leigh Griffiths ahead of the Premiership clash against Partick Thistle on Sunday, said: “It’s a good draw from a travelling point of view.
“The journeys could have been tougher. All the teams we could have played, I’m sure are all very good teams. We have just had a long journey and it was successful, but I think you always prefer a shorter journey.”
Ronny Deila is sure to have plenty of information about Malmo, who are managed by his fellow-Norwegian Age Hareide, and Collins knows enough about Salzburg to appreciate the strength of the Swedes.
He added: “The research starts this afternoon. What I do know is they must be good to beat Salzburg 3-0. We played Salzburg last year and they were a very good football team – fit, organised, high tempo.
“They have turned a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead, so they have obviously proved they can cope with pressure.
“When you are 2-0 down from the first leg and turn it round, it tells you there is a bit of spirit and a bit of belief in their team.
“We don’t need any warnings. We respect every team we play against and have the exact same preparation. We will have them watched, the video and computer analysis, so we will know them inside out.
“We will do our homework and then we have got to perform on the big day – that’s what it’s all about at his level.
“So far the boys have been fantastic, switched on. At this level, if you lose your concentration for one second then the ball could be in the back of the net.
“I think we have stepped up from last season. The clean sheets are great for the boys’ confidence as well.”
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