Ronny Deila, the new Celtic manager, last night criticised the "stupid" qualifying format of the Champions League which requires his team to negotiate three rounds to reach the group stage. Deila will take charge of his first competitive game tonight when Celtic's season starts against KR Reykjavik in Iceland in the second qualifying round, first leg. They also have to survive a third round and a two-legged play-off tie to reach the groups.
Scotland are 23rd in the Uefa country co-efficient, behind the likes of Belarus and Cyprus, and Deila said it was unfair that Celtic's recent progress to the last 16 of the Champions League counted for nothing when it came to qualifying.
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Other clubs had "dragged down" the co-efficient, he said. "I think the way to the Champions League is too long," said Deila after arriving in Reykjavik last night. "Celtic have been fighting for many years with the best teams in Europe and I think it is stupid that the Scottish co-efficient is not regarded as good enough. I knew we had three qualifying rounds [before I took the job]. I think that's wrong because
you have to take into consideration the club, not the country.
"We need the biggest clubs in the Champions League, those who have deserved it, of course. Celtic don't deserve to have three rounds before going into the Champions League. I think the success of recent years deserves more respect. This is a very big club with fantastic history. I think it's very unfair that going to the last 16 is not going to be recognised.
"That's a problem in every small country. We maybe have one good team but the other ones are dragging that team down. I think especially here, when you have a big club like Celtic that has done so well, they should have a shot at the group stages right away. Some countries have three or four teams going in and I think that's not right."
Celtic should be far too strong for KR Reykavik tonight, even without the injured Scott Brown and James Forrest. A professional performance will be required, none the less, and Deila seemed confident that his players would not let him down.
"I think the only thing we can do is be prepared and work hard and the players have done that. Now I feel that we are ready for the game. Reykjavik is a team that we have a very good chance to have a good result against."
Meanwhile, Kris Commons has revealed he wants to spend the rest of his career at Celtic and is eager to have talks with Peter Lawwell as soon as possible about a contract extension. The 30-year-old is out of contract at the end of this season and will be free to speak to other clubs from January. Deila has said he wants last season's top scorer to be given a new deal but so far no discussions have taken place between the player and the Celtic hierarchy.
Any doubts about whether Commons remained committed to Celtic were removed yesterday when he spoke en route to Iceland. Commons, who joined Celtic from Derby County for only £300,000 in 2011, said he had no wish to return to English football and could have all his ambitions satisfied at Celtic.
"The manager and Peter Lawwell are aware of my contract situation and, hopefully sooner rather than later, we'll sit down and talk about it," said Commons, who scored 32 goals last season. "When you get four or five months into the last year of your contract you can start talking to other clubs, but that's something I don't want to do. I want to get my future sorted here."
He gave a revealing answer when asked if he hoped the issue could be resolved in the next couple of months: "I'd rather get it sorted in the next couple of days, if it was up to me. I didn't have a bad year last year so I hope they still want me. I have absolutely no desire to go back to England.
"I'd like to finish my career at Celtic because there's no need to go anywhere else. There's nothing down the road that would entertain me."
Celtic's game kicks off at 8pm UK time tonight. KR Reykjavik manager Runar Kristinsson agreed with Deila's point about Celtic entering the tournament too soon and downplayed his team's chances. "We are all amateurs and they are all fully professional so it's a lot of difference between our club and theirs.
"I don't think we have a lot of chance. They absolutely should not be playing us at this stage."