Malmo boss Age Hareide has laid the gauntlet down to Celtic ahead of the sides’ UEFA Champions League play-off first-leg clash on Wednesday.
The former Norway coach led Malmo into the Champions League group stage last season, and is in little doubt that he can repeat the trick 12 months on.
Malmo beat Red Bull Salzburg at this stage last season and in this term’s third qualifying round – which appears to be the source of Hareide’s confidence given Ronny Deila’s men were unable to beat the Austrians in the 2014-15 Europa League.
“I said last year, and I meant it, that Salzburg were better than Olympiacos [Malmo’s Group A rivals last term],” he said. “And my professional judgement now, after the experience I have as coach, is the same this time.
“Salzburg are a better team than Celtic. Celtic are a good team. We have every respect for Celtic. But the truth is Salzburg are better and showed it in the Europa League last year too.”
The 64-year-old’s comments left Deila riled and, after Celtic’s 4-2 win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Saturday, the Parkhead boss vowed to make compatriot Hareide eat his words.
He said: “We’ll see on Wednesday. That’s when they have to show they are better.
“European matches are tough – you win or lose on the smallest details. We’ll fight to show Hareide is wrong. The pressure is on him after what he said.
“We will find out on Wednesday if they are better.”
Celtic bolstered their squad going into the weekend with the signing of midfielder Scott Allan from Hibernian – a player who had been expected to join fierce Glasgow rivals Rangers.
Despite having a new player at his disposal, Deila suggested Wednesday will be too early for the new man.
“We will see,” Deila said.
“It is not as if Scott Allan is going to come in here and be the king from the first minute. Nobody is expecting that.
“I don’t think he will go straight in. Nobody has done that, almost.
“He is a young talented player who needs to get used to what we are used to doing and get up to the tempo.”
Malmo – who are two thirds of the way through their league campaign – come into the tie on the back of three successive wins in all competitions, while Celtic will look to repeat their third-round formula which saw a 1-0 win over Qarabag on home soil backed up by a goalless draw in Azerbaijan.