CELTIC PARK (Sporting Alert) — Scottish Premier League leaders Celtic FC takes on Inter Milan in their Europa League round of 32 game at Celtic Park on Thursday night.
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Celtic come into this game on a good run after winning their last six games in all competitions, but manager Ronny Deila believes this clash will tell a lot about his young squad.
The hosts have lost all four of their last four matchups against Italian sides and have done so without scoring a single goal.
It’s no wonder Deila is trying to take the pressure off his lads.
“We have a very exciting squad,” Deila said. “There are a lot of young players here at the beginning of their careers and this match is important to improve and show what level you are at.
“We will get a lot of answers in terms of how good Celtic are and how good we are individually as well, but we have a very good feeling.
“We are a strong unit now with very good togetherness and we are just looking forward to the game.
“It’s hard for me to say in percentage terms how much we have improved but if you have an eye for football you can see it’s a totally different team from earlier in the season.
“The players have had a lot of improvement and some of the youngsters and also the older players are taking steps.
Manager Deila has opted to stick with the same starting lineup that opened against St Johnstone in league action on Saturday, which means that midfielder Gary Mackay-Steven and attacker Stuart Armstrong will be handed their Celtic European debuts.
Leading the attacking line again is Leigh Griffiths with John Guidetti on the bench, while Scott Brown, Virgil van Dijk, Emilio Izaguirre, Adam Matthews and Jason Denayer also start as well.
However, forward Kris Commons, who picked up a hamstring injury earlier this month and missed the Bhoys’ last two games, will not feature and is not on the bench either, despite training this week.
Meanwhile, Inter Milan manager Roberto Mancini welcomes the return of defender Hugo Campagnaro, who has apparently recovered from a calf problem and starts alongside Davide Santon, Andrea Ranocchia and Juan Jesus in the backline.
The inform Fredy Guarin starts as well for the Nerazzurri, so too does Gary Medel and Xherdan Shaqiri, with Rodrigo Palacio getting the starting nod to lead the front line ahead of Mateo Kovacic.
Mancini’s Inter Milan side has won three and lost three of its last six games and are coming off a 4-1 victory over Atalanta over the weekend, with Guarin netting two goals and Shaqiri and Palacio on the scoresheet as well in that game.
CelticFC Team: Gordon; Matthews, Denayer, van Dijk, Izaguirre; Brown, Bitton; Mackay-Steven, Johansen, Armstrong; Griffiths. Subs: Zaluska, Ambrose, Henderson, McGregor, Wakaso, Scepovic, Guidetti
Inter Milan Team: Carrizo, Santon, Ranocchia, Juan Jesus, Campagnaro, Kuzmanovic, Guarin, Medel, Shaqiri, Palacio, Icardi. Subs: Handanovic, Kovacic, Vidic, Obi, Dodo, Puscas, Hernanes.