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Celtic not underestimating European challenge

By June 19, 2018No Comments

Celtic assistant manager Chris Davies noted their ever-increasing Champions League challenge after they were put on course for an early rematch with Rosenborg.

The Scottish champions enter the competition one stage earlier than last year when they face Armenians Alashkert in the first qualifying round.

Victory would secure a contest against Rosenborg or Valur, but the Norwegian side have a much stronger pedigree than the Icelandic team, who have only won three European ties.

Celtic needed a James Forrest goal in the final quarter in Trondheim last year to progress from the third qualifying round after a goalless first leg, and the Norwegian side went on to beat Ajax to reach the Europa League group stages.

And Davies admitted the Hoops’ task of making it a hat-trick of group stage campaigns was even more arduous.

“That does illustrate where it’s at at the moment,” he said in an interview on Celtic’s official Twitter account.

“There is no doubt in anyone’s minds – the players, the staff, the supporters of the club – that it’s a challenge to get into the Champions League. Everyone knows that.

“With Rosenborg, the positives I will take from that potential game is that we have beaten them before, and probably the hardest way because we had to play them away second. I don’t think their style or players are going to have changed too much, so we know quite a lot about them. So they are positives.

“But from our point of view it’s all about Alashkert, and that’s been our mentality and approach all the way since we have been here. That’s the team to be thinking about.

“Obviously our scouts will do their work on Rosenborg in preparation for that being an eventuality, but it’s all about the first game, it’s all about being ready for that, being at our best level for that game and getting through that round.”

Alashkert shocked St Johnstone in the Europa League three years ago but their only other European victories have both come against Santa Coloma of Andorra.

But Davies knows the challenges of a 7,000-mile round trip to play in 30C-plus heat in Yerevan pose their own difficulties.

“You have got to bear that in mind, that there will be heat there,” he said. “At times you can adapt slightly on a tactical side, how you approach certain phases of a game when it’s so hot.

“But we are training now in warmer weather and we are going to Austria, which will be warmer, so that will help us prepare for that.”

Davies, whose side open their campaign on July 11, added: “We travel there first and we are at home second, which is positive.

“The simplicity of it for us is, if we play to our level, play with our normal way and intensity, then we will beat them. But we won’t be underestimating them at all.

“There will be no complacency there whatsoever because as we have seen before these teams can be tricky to play against.

“But we are getting ready and we are excited about the challenges ahead.”