ADAM MATTHEWS reckons Celtic will enjoy a Champions League spin-off thanks to last season’s experiences in the Europa League
The Welsh international defender is looking forward to taking on Icelandic champions FC Stjarnan in the second qualifying round of football’s elite club competition.
Ronny Deila’s side will play the first game in Glasgow on either July 14 of 15 and then travel to Rejkavik on July 21 or 22. Then they will walk the tightrope again in a third play-off.
The Parkhead outfit failed to qualify last season, despite being handed a UEFA reprieve following their home-and-away defeats against Legia Warsaw who were found guilty of having fielded an ineligible player.
They flopped 1-0 at home to NK Maribor to lose 2-1 on aggregate and exit the top tournament.
However, Matthews believes it will be a different story this time around. He said: “I think we can take confidence from how we performed in the Europa League, in general, and the last two games against Inter Milan in particular.
“In the first leg against the Italians at Celtic Park we showed that we can attack really well against a high standard of opposition in Europe.
“We obviously conceded three goals in that game and wanted to tighten up defensively, and, for the most part, we managed to do that in the second leg when the tie was balanced at 3-3.
“We restricted them to long-range shots and crosses into the box. We were happy with that aspect of our play.
“Obviously, there is nothing to take confidence from when you lose a game no matter who the opposition is, but our performances were not too bad.”
Deila’s side battled to draws against Salzburg in Austria and Astra Giurgiu in Romania and were narrowly beaten 4-3 by Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia while impressing against Inter Milan at the San Siro.
Matthews added: “In the first game against Inter, we tried to play like we did in the Premiership in Scotland and against better opposition you just can’t do that.
“Sometimes Emilio Izaguirre and I were caught up the pitch at the same time and they punished us for that. We had a meeting after it and agreed if one of us goes forward the other one tucks back.
“That made sure we were far more compact in the second leg. There were no gaps between us. That forced them to go round the outside and play crosses into the box.
“In that situation, we know we can defend crosses.
“I think we have learned from our games in the Europa League and will be well placed going into our European games now.”