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Deila is happy to adapt on eve of biggest game

THE money cannot be counted yet and nor can the chickens.

Ronny Deila:In my heart I want to  be even more offensively but we played tactically smarter in Maribor . . .
Ronny Deila:In my heart I want to be even more offensively but we played tactically smarter in Maribor . . .

When Celtic manager Ronny Deila yesterday discussed how tantalisingly close his club has come to reaching the Champions League group stage, his barely-concealed anticipation was impossible to miss. Deila will not be stripping down to his underpants at full-time if Celtic take care of Maribor tonight - as he did five years ago when his team avoided relegation in Norway - but we might see him let loose in a way he hasn't done up until now. Deila might give it laldy, as they say in Stromsgodset.

But not yet. As he chatted breezily about what the Champions League would mean to him, and about the compromises he has made in the infancy of his Celtic career, his conversation was laced with significant nods towards the danger posed by Maribor. They are "very direct," he said. They have "good skills up front". Most tellingly of all, "they could hurt us at any time".

There has been a temptation among some to interpret this as a job already done. Celtic delivered an excellent result in last Wednesday's 1-1 draw in Slovenia. Stefan Johansen and Virgil van Dijk might have scored another away goal which might have made things rosier still. Maribor have been described as limited and mediocre. In fact the result and the statistics for attempts on goal and possession confirm the first leg was a draw between two even sides.

In Tavares, Agim Ibraimi and Damjan Bohar, the goalscorer, it was clear that they had men capable of worrying Celtic. A big crowd will descend on Parkhead for the grand old stadium's first European tie of the season and the expectation is of a fun, celebratory evening. A Maribor goal could redraw the tie and create an entirely different vibe.

Deila was embraced with surprisingly little resistance by the broad Celtic support in the summer and it soon became clear that one of his most seductive qualities was an emphasis on relentless attacking football. That sounded great in June.

Things feel more sober on August 26, though. This doesn't feel like a time for idealism. Deila had his fingers burned by not being cautious enough against a superior side and the 6-1 aggregate defeat to Legia Warsaw was humbling. The astonishing reprieve which came from Legia's expulsion was seized upon quite effectively in Maribor. Celtic were more compact in the midfield, with Kris Commons dropped and Charlie Mulgrew, Beram Kayal and Stefan Johansen across the middle. It was a sensible centre.

"I have to adapt as well," said Deila. "There are a lot of things in Celtic that I can learn and get better from that will make me into a better coach. Every day it is developing here. Every day I get new challenges. That is the opportunity we have now - if we go through, we get more games like this.

"[In life] you can go to school or you can try to sit at home and learn things. Look at Callum [McGregor] now in the national team, getting the experience. That's the same for me in my education.

"4-3-3 is the formation I have played with most. The formations 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 are actually quite similar. It's about the dynamic in the midfield in terms of what type of player you pick into the three. So I don't think I compromised so much there [in Maribor]. That's what we will do in the future as well. In my heart I want to play even more offensively but we played tactically smarter in Maribor.

"That's a lesson you have to learn. You have to find the balance between romance and smartness."

Do Celtic sit on their precious away goal or try to build on it? Both, because those approaches are not mutually exclusive. Maribor played a counter-attacking game at home and are likely to do so again, although perhaps they will try to wrong-foot Celtic by being more aggressive from the start.

There were moments in Slovenia when Celtic's back four offered Maribor plenty of encouragement. "They're a very tactical team. It's very easy to know what they're going to do but very hard to stop them. Maribor will try to counter attack, pretty much the same as they did at home. For us it's important to be very aggressive and, of course, to push up, but also to play with good balance in the team and be patient.

"You have to be offensive and aggressive in your head but also tactically aware. So you can actually say we need aggressive legs and calm heads, if you can put it in that order.

"I felt that Maribor could hurt us at any time. If we lose concentration, they are there. They're very direct and have good skills up front, as well as being hard to break down. Legia Warsaw were a better team than us but things happened and now we have an opportunity in the play-off.

"Maribor are there and if we beat them we have shown we can be in the Champions League. If we don't beat them then we say: 'Okay, we're not good enough'. Let's give everything and see where it takes us."

It is the night which will define Celtic's season and his first campaign in Scotland. At least £14m, and a manager's reputation, are up for grabs. After only nine competitive games, Deila has his first cup final.

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