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Celtic v Stjarnan: Deila´s men hoping to avoid another Champions League nightmare

Celtic get their UEFA Champions League campaign under way against Stjarnan on Wednesday, aiming for an improved performance after last season’s nightmare in the competition.

Ronny Deila’s men face their Icelandic opponents at Celtic Park in the opening leg of the second qualifying round tie before the return encounter a week later.

The Scottish champions safely negotiated this stage last term, prevailing 5-0 on aggregate against KR, but were then comprehensively outplayed by Legia Warsaw.

Celtic went down 6-1 on aggregate, but were offered a reprieve when Legia were found to have fielded an illegible player – Bartosz Bereszynski – for two minutes of the second leg and were promptly kicked out.

Deila’s side failed to make the most of their second chance, however, and were beaten 2-1 over two legs by Maribor in the play-off round.

Wednesday’s opponents Stjarnan – who became famous for their extensively choreographed goal celebrations that became an internet sensation on YouTube – are already 11 matches into their domestic season.

Stjarnan have made an inconsistent start, with 15 points from those games and although they have the edge in terms of competitive action under their belt coming into this encounter, Celtic’s Gary Mackay-Steven feels confident his side will be ready.

“Friday night was another tough opponent but we are definitely feeling fitter and sharper,” said the forward, who scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Real Sociedad.

“We have been working on a few things in training and have definitely had good work-outs in the three pre-season games so I’m sure we will be ready for Wednesday.

“It’s looking good and looking ahead to Wednesday I’m excited.

“I came back to pre-season with no injuries so I’m happy and looking forward to the season. I’m feeling good.”

Defender Mikael Lustig, meanwhile, is hopeful of being selected after spending a year in and out of the team through injury.

“Fitness-wise I would lie if I said I’m in the best shape of my life but it’s getting better,” he said.

“It’s important that I’ve played in three [pre-season] games now and hopefully on Wednesday I’m going to be ready.

“Hopefully there will competition for places. Both me and Adam Matthews did well together but the main thing for me now is to try to stay fit for the season and if I’m fit I’m sure I’ll be able to start.”

Mon 13 Jul, 2015
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