Wednesday 13 December 2017

Collins: Malmo draw not so Swede for Celts

John Collins
John Collins

Celtic welcomed their upcoming Champions League trip to Sweden, but assistant boss John Collins recognised that Malmo's path to the play-offs makes them a serious obstacle.

The Swedish side overturned a two-goal deficit with a 3-0 home win over Salzburg, who won 3-1 at Parkhead in the Europa League group stages last season.

The Austrians also lost 3-0 at Malmo in the Champions League qualifiers last term as the Swedes made the group stages, unlike Ronny Deila's side, although they only picked up three points.

Celtic made the play-offs with a goalless draw in Azerbaijan this week, which secured 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 Celtic's Ladbrokes Premiership clash against Partick Thistle tomorrow (live on BT Sport 1, kick-off 12.30), said: "It's a good draw from a travelling point of view - it's not too far. The journeys could have been tougher. All the teams we could have played, I'm sure are all very good teams. We have had a long journey there and it was successful but I think you always prefer a shorter journey."

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.

"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," the former Scotland midfielder said. .

"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."

The name Malmo still sends shivers down the back of Hibernian supporters given their 7-0 win at Easter Road in the Europa League two seasons ago, and they will be looking for a hat-trick of Scottish conquests having knocked Ally McCoist's Rangers out of the Champions League qualifiers four years ago. But former Hibs boss Collins said: "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."

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