WHEN Lille were scouting Celtic ahead of their Europa League tie last week by watching their match against Aberdeen, it would be doubtful that Moi Elyounoussi would have been marked out as the Scottish champions’ danger-man. Apart from being hacked down for the penalty that led to Celtic’s second goal, the Norwegian was largely anonymous.

Fast-forward four days and he was tearing the high-flying Frenchmen apart, scoring a scintillating opener and following it up with a brilliantly placed second to have Neil Lennon’s side two up at the interval.

He then followed that up with an impressive performance against Aberdeen at Hampden as he grabbed another crucial goal, prompting fulsome praise from his manager along with pleas for more consistency in equal measure.

There is a nagging voice in the back of Elyounoussi’s head – not Neil Lennon’s, incidentally – that tells him he hasn’t quite shown his very best form for Celtic in either of his spells at the club, in part due to injuries and in part through the streaky nature of his form so far.

Now though, he feels the Celtic support are getting a glimpse of just what he can bring to the side on a regular basis.

“I’m always happy to score goals and provide assists for the team,” Elyounoussi said. “Obviously, as a player, you always want more and sometimes you think more about the chances you didn’t take than the ones you did.

“So I’m content with how I’ve done so far but I’m still hoping that there is even better to come.

“At any time you always want to bring a big performance, whatever the game is. I don’t think too much about what happened with the injury last year because this is a new season and I have it all ahead of me.

“Now I’m doing everything I can to stay healthy and, hopefully, to score more goals for Celtic and for Norway.

“It’s hard to say how close I am to my best form at the moment but I’d like to think it’s currently better than 80 percent. But, you know, I can always get better as a person and a player.

“I know I can improve but I believe it’s impossible to reach 100% because you’re never completely satisfied – you always want more from yourself.

“Hopefully, then, I can grow as a player – because that’s why I came to Celtic in the first place.”

Elyounoussi also came to Celtic due to limited opportunities at parent club Southampton, and he admits that the recent praise directed his way by St Mary’s manager Ralph Hasenhüttl has rung thunderously in his ears.

“Is that good for my confidence? Yes, of course,” he said. “I am glad to hear that. I follow what they are doing and I am pleased they are doing so well at the moment.

‘But me personally now my main focus is on Celtic and playing as well as possible for this club and enjoying games. But I’m happy that Southampton are doing well as well.”

If those warm words from Hasenhüttl have muddied Elyounoussi’s long-term future somewhat, his short-term goals at Celtic are clear. The job of eating into the nine-point lead established by Rangers in the Premiership – albeit with two games in hand – is high on his agenda, but there is also the small matter of the crunch Europa League double-header against Sparta Prague that could go a long way to deciding qualification from Celtic’s group.

For Elyounoussi, three points in the first of those games at Celtic Park this week are a must, though he doesn’t think that the visitors’ lack of regular action recently – they haven’t played a league match since October 3rd due to Covid restrictions in the Czech Republic – will have any significant bearing on the outcome.

“We only focus on ourselves and what we can produce in every game and I’m sure they will put out a good team anyway and whoever plays for them will give their all,” he said.

“But we’re more concerned with coming up with another display as good as the one in France.

“It’s important for both clubs on Thursday,” he continued. “We know that we need to win if we are to have a chance of going through but we’re confident and in good form going into the tie.

“We’ve had good performances against Lille last week and then against Aberdeen at Hampden on Sunday so we need to keep that momentum going.”

Talk of momentum may have seemed alien to Celtic fans just a little over a week ago given the defeats to Rangers, AC Milan and the draw against Aberdeen which capped off a miserable three-game run for their team, but the performances and results in the last two matches against Lille and Aberdeen in particular have changed the mood music around the club somewhat.

“It’s difficult for me to talk about what happened then because I just concentrate on the games ahead of us and what we can do in them,” Elyounoussi said.

“You can learn from the past but we’re in great shape and great form right now and we need to maintain that and, hopefully, get another win on Thursday."