SOME reasonably impressive qualities are being shown by Celtic at the moment and confidence is pretty high up the list.

In their last three European games they drew with Astra Giurgiu and conceded seven goals in defeats to Red Bull Salzburg and Dynamo Zagreb. It should sound unrealistic for them to contemplate beating Inter Milan when they're taking that sort of form into the Europa League round of 32 next week, but it doesn't. Stranger things have happened. Two wins in Roberto Mancini's first ten games in charge - Inter appointed him in November - is a dismal record which has nourished morale around Parkhead. Before facing Palermo on Sunday night they languished in 13th position in Serie A, 27 points behind leaders Juventus.

Inter will turn up in Glasgow a week on Thursday and their size, strength, pace and technique will be superior to any team Celtic have faced this season except Legia Warsaw and Salzurg, but there is a momentum and belief around Ronny Deila's team at the moment. It is reasonable to assume they will deal with Partick Thistle on Wednesay night and St Johnstone on Saturday before going in against the Italians in buoyant spirits. Strong SPFL (or Scottish Cup) form is an fragile indicator of a team's readiness to take on substantial European opposition.

Celtic missed chances against Dundee and their easy superiority rendered that irrelevant. Against Inter they will be allowed fewer opportunities and poor finishing may prove extremely costly. They also have a highly-praised central defence which will have to be far less dozy in European ties than it has been up until now. Still, the energy, pace and spirit of the team is currently quite a powerful combination. When the draw was made in December Celtic's prospects looked bleak. Now it is possible to see a way to the last 16.

"Inter is going to be really good," said Stefan Johansen. "They are a very good team, but, of course, I believe we can beat them. If I didn't think that, there would be something wrong with me. But it's small differences and small things which can decide those games and we have to be ready, but the two league matches are most important now. I don't care too much about what Inter do in their league and what kind of players they have, blah, blah. We are doing well just now and we'll take that with us, although Partick is our focus right now. I speak for myself, but I feel how close we are to doing something special."

Johansen epitomises Celtic this season: sometimes flat and unconvincing, other times an almost irresistible force of perpetual motion. At Dens Park he was head and shoulders above everyone else in a cup tie which was sedated by goals at the start of each half. Johansen was everywhere: moving, probing, driving and manoeuvring. That is Deila's idea of a central midfielder.

"I said when the gaffer came it would take time and we are getting better and better," said Johansen. "You are starting to see we are better in transition and we are better with the ball. We are creating more and playing more the way he wants us to play. I think that is important for the gaffer and the players because nobody knew him before he came here and he didn't know the players. You have to get the best from the players and I think we have all done well with this. Speaking for myself, too. I started the season a bit deeper in the midfield but now I'm playing as a number ten. You just have to adapt to what the gaffer wants. He is a good manager and he talks with players."

There was no reason why Johansen should automatically beat Kostadin Gadzhalov to the ball when the rebound sprung from Scot Bain's hand after the goalkeeper had saved a Leigh Griffiths header. But Johansen did, of course he did, and it typified the sharpness and hunger in Celtic's performance when he scored. Griffiths had put them ahead at the start with a deft header from a delicious Mikael Lustig cross.

Celtic cruised and the tie petered out long before the end. Dundee last won the Scottish Cup in 1910. It's a good job Hibs are around to take the heat off them. The tournament was not kind to them this season. Yes, their pair of ties were both at home, but they were against the strongest two teams in the country. Beating Aberdeen in the fourth round deserved better than being drawn against Celtic. Losing Greg Stewart to injury in the first half was a significant blow.

The game was done by the time Luka Tankulic also limped off at the end. Manager Paul Hartley needs all his key men for the remainder of the Premiership campaign, in which they are unbeaten in their last six league games.

"We need to keep the consistency that we had in the league before this game," said Bain. "We've gone through a few sticky patches in the season and come out of them. I think we're just a point off the top six. That's what we'll be pushing for during the rest of the season."

As for Celtic, the Nerazzurri are coming.