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DEILA HOPES TO AVOID BIG GUNS IN EUROPE

Ronny Deila wants the "easiest" Europa League opponents possible for Celtic when the draw for the last 32 is made next month.

The Hoops qualified for the knockout stages of the tournament on Thursday night despite a 3-1 defeat to Salzburg at Parkhead.

The Austrian outfit, the first from the country ever to win on Scottish soil, clinched top place in Group D but with only a trip to Dinamo Zagreb remaining, Celtic cannot be caught for second place.

The Hoops could be drawn against English sides Everton or Tottenham - if Spurs end up top of their group - or face one of the top clubs who drop down from the Champions League which would ensure a full house at Celtic Park.

However, Deila wants a better possibility of progress rather than a glamour tie when the Scottish champions go into the hat in Nyon on December 15.

Ahead of the William Hill Scottish Cup fourth-round tie against Hearts at Tynecastle tomorrow, the Celtic boss said: "We want the easiest team so we can go through, that's what we want.

"We want to stay as long as possible in this tournament. We are not here for show-off games.

"We want to go through the last 16, quarter-finals, and we are going to do everything to go through and we want a team that suits us best so we can go further.

"We have to take what is coming. There are a lot of good teams there and whoever we might get is going to be hard. We will be up for it."

While the Norwegian is keen to make his mark in Europe in his first season as Celtic manager, he starts each day thinking about the domestic treble.

The former Stromsgodset boss said: "Every time I wake up in the morning I see that in front of me, that's the goal, to win everything and for the players as well.

"But we have to think how we are going to achieve it and that starts every day in training, and in how we prepare for every game."

Hoops striker Leigh Griffiths, however, claimed the Scottish Premiership is not as good without Hearts, Rangers and Hibernian.

Three of Scotland's top clubs have found themselves in the Championship for various reasons and are all battling to win promotion, but the former Hibs striker believes they are all missed in the top flight.

He said: "It misses them all - Hearts, Rangers, Hibs, it's not really the same without them but the circumstances are what they are.

"They're in that league for a reason but hopefully two of them come back up this season and it will be great for Scottish football."

Griffiths made his first start since August against Salzburg in the absence of the ineligible John Guidetti and is hoping to stay in the team for the game against Championship leaders Hearts at a stadium where he is guaranteed a hot reception by the home fans.

He said: "It's part and parcel of the game. The only way to shut them up is by scoring or putting in a good performance and I will be looking to do that on Sunday.

"The atmosphere will be rocking, Hearts are flying just now.

"They're a good team and they proved that at Celtic Park (in a 3-0 Celtic win in the League Cup). If they had taken their chances in the first half the result might have been different."


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