Collins wary of Qarabag threat

Date published: Monday 27th July 2015 5:55

The Azerbaijani champions arrive at Celtic Park on Wednesday after winning 1-0 in Montenegro against Rudar Pljevlja last week, the only goal of the tie.

Collins insists Celtic have done their homework and are wary of the threat from a side who were denied a place in the knockout stage of last season’s Europa League when they were controversially denied a late winner against Inter Milan.

Former Hoops midfielder Collins is confident the home supporters will show patience on Wednesday, even if the fans know little about Qarabag.

“They are a good football team and they like to knock it about, and have a couple of Brazilians who are very good, very talented,” Collins said.

“Last year in the Europa League they did very well, they were in the same group as St Etienne and Inter Milan – we watched those games, they played very well.

“They are a good football team and we’re looking forward to them coming here, but at the end of the day it’s important we play well.

“I don’t think Celtic supporters are daft, they know there are a lot of good football teams out there, especially when you are in the Champions League, that means they are the champions of their country.

“They have got talent, but we’ve got lots of talent in the team. We know we’ll have to be focused for 90 minutes, total concentration, because at this level if you make a mistake you get punished.”

Celtic cruised through the last qualifying tie with a 6-1 aggregate victory over Icelandic champions Stjarnan, and Collins insists everyone at the club is prepared for a greater challenge over two-legs this time around.

Collins insists the players are better prepared than they were at the same stage last season, when the Ronny Deila was still settling in following his appointment.

With a season behind them the players and the new management team are in a better position to avoid an early exit from the competition.

Collins said: “There is no doubt it is a big step up from the last opponents, technically they are much better, tactically as well, probably physically they are in better condition as well.

“But we’ve watched them, we know all about them, we know their strengths and weaknesses and we know we’ll have to play well to win the game.

“We always love playing here at Celtic Park, there is always a great atmosphere, and the home support gets behind the players and drives us forward, so we are looking forward to another great occasion at Celtic Park.

“We are constantly learning and developing and analysing performances, that’s what we do. Win or lose we study our performances and see how we can get better.

“But of course we learned last season, we knew it was always going to be difficult once you get to the Champions League you are playing against champions, and there is always quality in the opposition and if you lose concentration one little slip and the ball can end up in the back of your net.

“The message is there for the players, we’ve shown them lots of video and we’ve got to be at it on Wednesday night.

“As a group of players and a coaching staff we are way ahead of where we were this time last year, we were knew to the players and the player were new to us, but we’ve had 12 months working together, so we’re in a much better position.”

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