Europa League: Collins urges Celtic to step up against Inter Milan

John Collins and Ronny Deila
John Collins has been impressed at the level of planning carried out by manager Ronny Deila
Celtic v Inter Milan, Europa League last 32
Venue: Celtic Park Date: Thursday 19 February Kick-off: 20:05 GMT
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland 810MW & DAB digital radio; live text commentary on BBC Sport website

Celtic assistant manager John Collins is warning his players to expect Inter Milan to punish their errors in a way they seldom see in domestic games.

The teams meet in the first leg of their last 32 game at Celtic Park on Thursday evening.

Collins said: "We'll be tested. If we make mistakes or we're not compact, then they will punish us. That doesn't always happen in the Premiership.

"Against Inter Milan, if we switch off, there is every chance they will score."

Inter sit mid-table in Serie A, with eight wins from 23 games, though a 3-0 home win over Palermo followed by a 4-1 away victory over Atalanta in the last two Sundays suggest they will come to Glasgow with increased confidence.

While Inter have shipped 30 goals this season, Celtic have conceded a mere 13 in 24 Scottish Premiership matches in 2014-15.

Michael O'Halloran's strike for St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park on Saturday was the first goal conceded by Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon since Stuart Armstrong, now at Celtic, scored in a win for Dundee United on 21 December.

A draw with Ross County followed that Terrors victory, but since then Celtic have won eight games in a row.

John Collins poses with Celtic and Inter Milan jerseys
The match against Inter is expected to draw a big crowd at Celtic Park on Thursday

Looking ahead to the visit of Roberto Mancini's Inter, Collins said: "We are playing well and with confidence.

"At the same time, we know we are up against a very good team, a team that is maybe hitting form.

"In the last couple of games, they have scored three and four, so it looks like the manager is getting his ideas across to his players, but we're in a good place.

"We know we are not playing against another Premiership team. We are playing against a team that is full of internationals, that has had money spent on it and that has a hugely experienced manager who has won things at the top level.

"It's going to be a challenge for us. To qualify, we are going to have to play very well in both games.

"We know how Italians - they will be very well organised defensively, technically they are good and they are very dangerous at set pieces.

"I think one in three of their goals are scored at set pieces, so we're going to have to be on our toes."

Celtic appear to be settling to the ways of their manager, Ronny Deila, who arrived last summer.

Collins credits the Norwegian for his preparedness, saying he "leaves nothing to chance".

Deila suffered disappointment in his early months at the club, with a 6-1 aggregate defeat by Legia Warsaw in Champions League qualifying.

The Poles' selection of a suspended player meant Celtic were reinstated, but they lost in the Champions League play-off round to Maribor.

There followed a mixed bag of results in the Europa League group stage, with two wins, two draws and two defeats, enough to progress to the last 32 alongside Red Bull Salzburg.

"We've seen gradual progress and that's what you want," added Collins, a former Celtic midfielder, who views the game as a chance for the players to register their improvement across the winter.

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