Ronny kicks off with a victory

Celtic’s preseason training under Ronny Deila and John Collins has been up and running for just over a week now. Yesterday at their training camp in Austria, the new management team notched up their first victory.

Celtic beat Russian side FK Krasnodar 3-1 in a preseason friendly in the Hofmaninger-Stadion. Ronny Deila utilised two different teams to play each half, both groups of eleven showing hunger and determination.

Anthony Stokes opened his preseason account in less than two minutes with a nice touch but the Russians equalised in the 19th minute. On 42 minutes Stefan Johansen put Celtic ahead again from a tight angle and after a full cha he at half time it was young Callum McGregor who sealed the victory,having spent last season on loan to Notts County.

Given the timescale the new coaching staff have to prepare before that first Champions League qualifier, it is unsurprising that they used 90 minutes to run the rule over 22 players. That trend may continue for the next game against Rapid Vienna as well.

By the time the LSK Linz and Dukla Prague matches come around Ronny and John should have a better idea of a starting eleven. That first competitive match against KR Reykjavik is now only 11 days away.

The management team have already underlined the room for improvement but they will be encouraged by the start made in Austria. The most important thing from this was that Ronny got to cast is eye over so many of his players in one match.

Celtic are of course without a handful of players such as Forrest, through injury. They are also without their World Cup contingent of Izaguirre, Forster and Ambrose.

The latter three are unlikely to feature in the first competitive match over in Iceland. Though there is the chance that they could be included in the squad for the return leg at Murrayfield a week later.

That will all depend on whether Ronny feels they have each has had sufficient rest after the World Cup. It will also depend on whether he deems it necessary to call upon their services.

All are important players for the club but Celtic have sufficient cover. What is encouraging is that Ronny is already talking about how different things will look a year from now.

For the time being, its a positive start for Ronny and John and they will be keen to influence and improve the team further. The next friendly match is on Sunday against Rapid Vienna where we will hopefully see another advance in preseason preparations.

New signing Craig Gordon has joined up with the squad now. With four keepers now involved with the first team matters, it is likely one will be shipped out on loan or sold.

Fraser Forster is the prime candidate tipped for a big move away from the club. It has also been mooted that Lukasz Zaluska could depart but it even young keeper Leonardo Fasan could find himself on a loan move if he requires experience.

This story will unravel itself over the coming weeks but for now we know there is no shortage of keepers. The same can be said throughout the squad, unless of course Celtic move anyone on or accept bids for players in key positions.

For now, Ronny Deila must assess what he has in experience and what he has coming through the ranks. Youth finally looks like it will be given a chance and for me that’s encouraging and long over due.

Ronny seems determined to make that happen. With that in mind there may be no rush for new signings.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

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The Celtic Roadshow

Celtic will face KR Reykjavik in the Second Qualifying round of the Champions League. After today’s draw in Nyon, Ronny Deila discovered who he will be up against in first competitive game in charge of Celtic.

In between now and then, he and assistant John Collins will be preparing the squad for that first of six possible matches that they would need to overcome in order to emulate those achievements of Celtic’s past two seasons in Europe. The Champions League group phase is undoubtedly the aim for the club but it will be a stern test for the management team at their first attempt.

The Icelandic champions aren’t the worst selection but also not to be taken lightly. KR Reykjavik have been involved in the qualifying rounds for European competition consecutively the for the past five seasons.

However, they have never made it past the Second qualifying round of the Champions League or Third qualifying round of the Europa League. Their conqueror’s in those last five attempts coming in the form of FC Basel, FC Karpaty Lviv, FC Dinamo Tbilisi, HJK Helsinki (who Celtic later beat) and last season Standard Liege.

These losses should not be overlooked or underestimated. Even though Celtic are deemed a bigger club by history, experience and size its all about doing your home work and getting it right on the day.

Last season was by no means a convincing path to the group phase for Neil Lennon. There is nothing to suggest this will be any easier particularly that Deila will be using the same group of players as Neil Lennon did, minus Joe Ledley, Georgios Samaras and Kelvin Wilson.

On the subject players, one man Celtic will face is former youth hopeful, Kjartan Finnbogason. He was recruited by Celtic as a highly rated 18 year old but in his time at the club he never featured in a first team game.

He endured injury and loan spells during a three year spell before seeking opportunities away from Celtic. Having scored 31 goals in 67 matches for KR Reykjavik, he’ll be looking to prove a point against Celtic.

Preparations will be begin on the training ground for Celtic and decisions will be made on who take up key roles in defence, midfield and attack. There will be friendlies against Russian team FK Krasnodar, Rapid Vienna and LSK Linz of Austria and Dukla Prague of the Czech Republic to help make those decisions as well as a friendly against Dynamo Dresden in between first and second leg of the Second Qualifying round.

Although Celtic will play these friendlies on away or neutral territory, they will not play their first competitive match at Celtic Park, despite the home tie being first. With Paradise being used for the Commonwealth Games, Murrayfield will be home for Celtic’s first Champions League qualifying match.

Should Celtic advance from that round, it is likely that the home leg of the Third Qualifying round will also be played at Murrayfield. The closing ceremony for the Commonwealth Games is on Saturday 3rd August and it will take a while to prepare it for football once again.

So Celtic will remain nomadic until mid-August. With European football on the menu, it may even work in the Ronny and Johnny’s favour.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie