Over the next two weeks Celtic will face Malmo in a two-legged tie that will ultimately decide their European fate for this season. The Hoops will be keen to avoid a repeat of last season when they fell at this final hurdle, losing 2-1 on aggregate to NK Maribor and having to settle for a spot in the Europa League competition.
A year on from Ronny Deila's disastrous start to his Celtic career, the Norwegian manager has got his team playing at a much higher level, often displaying an exciting attacking brand of football that even caused Italian giants Inter Milan problems in the playoff rounds of last season’s Europa League.
Celtic are now desperate for a return to the Champions League group stages this season and the fans will be cautiously optimistic that their team are more than capable of making it back into European football’s biggest competition.
Qualification won’t be an easy task however, with Swedish champions Malmo hoping to make a return to the group stages in which they competed last season. The Swedes showed their pedigree in the last qualifying round, eliminating the much fancied Red Bull Salzburg 3-2 on aggregate. Celtic will therefore have to be fully focused and get their game-plan right should they wish to achieve qualification.
5. Stick With Deila's Preferred 4-5-1 Formation
For much of his reign as Celtic manager Ronny Deila has favoured a 4-5-1 formation, with two wider midfielders and a central attacking midfielder providing support to a one man attack.
However following the signing of Nadir Çiftçi earlier this summer there have been suggestions that Deila might be better opting for a two man attack, with Çiftçi partnering the club’s top scorer from last season, Leigh Griffiths. Former Celtic player turned pundit Chris Sutton has recently claimed he would like to see this forward pairing used by the Hoops this season, whilst Griffiths himself has suggested that he and Çiftçi playing alongside each other could be “a match made in heaven”.
However, Celtic should stick with what they know for their two-legged tie with Malmo and use a one man attack.
The Griffiths-Çiftçi pairing is as yet untried, whereas using as lone striker has served Celtic well in Europe both this season and in last season’s Europa League. Yes, there will be time at some point this season to see if this strike partnership can yield benefits, but with Champions League football and the guaranteed £16 million for qualifying both on the line, this isn’t the time to be experimenting.