Celtic try to find right blend with Ciftci, Griffiths & Scepovic

Celtic striker Nadir Ciftci
Nadir Ciftci has featured prominently for Celtic in pre-season
Champions League qualifying: Stjarnan v Celtic
Date: Wednesday, 22 July Venue: Stjörnuvöllur, Garðabær Kick-off: 20:15 BST
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland 810MW/DAB/online; live text commentary on BBC Sport website

Celtic's lead over Stjarnan ought to be comfortable enough.

The two-goal advantage from the first leg provides an element of reassurance, even if the Icelandic champions play on an artificial surface that the visiting players will need to adapt to.

No assumptions can be made, but Celtic are well placed to proceed to the next round of Champions League qualifiers, where they would face either Azerbaijan's Qarabag or Montenegro's Rudar Pljevlja.

The 2-0 scoreline might have been more emphatic if the finishing at Celtic Park had been more reliable, and if a momentary squabble over who would take a penalty kick late on had not contributed to a lapse in composure from the eventual taker, Leigh Griffiths.

Even so, Celtic dominated the game for long periods and the team should have enough experience and competitive edge to progress with little drama or anxiety.

Celtic have benefitted from a relatively stable starting line-up - of the team that began against Stjarnan in Glasgow, only Dedryck Boyata and Nadir Ciftci arrived this summer - so that the expectations and instructions of manager Ronny Deila are now firmly established.

Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths has a penalty saved against Stjarnan
Griffiths was unable to open his account for the season when presented with this penalty opportunity

There is still a new partnership at centre-back to bed in, between Boyata and Virgil van Dijk, but in defence and midfield Celtic are solidly served.

It is up front that requires a solution, at least in terms of European competition. Griffiths and John Guidetti tended to share the central striking duties between themselves last season, but the Champions League qualifiers and the Europa League group stages were more challenging than domestic games and it was often evident that Celtic lacked a reliable finisher.

Griffiths started the two Champions League qualifiers against KR Reykjavik but failed to score in either game and did not start another European tie until Salzberg visited Celtic Park in November.

Teemu Pukki, Anthony Stokes, Jo Inge Berget, Stefan Scepovic and Guidetti were all tried in European games in the lone striker role that Deila prefers, but of the 20 goals that Celtic scored in the two competitions last season, only five were scored by recognised strikers: two by Pukki against KR Reykjavik, two by Scepovic against Astra Giurgiu and Dynamo Zagreb, and Guidetti's strike against Inter Milan.

There is no questioning Griffiths' finishing or instincts, as his 20 goals in all competitions last term attests, and the player improved over the course of the campaign.

Much of that was down to the striker accepting the demands made by Deila, particularly on his fitness. Griffiths ditched fizzy drinks and embraced the need to reduce his body fat, and the act of proving a point to his manager - that he could change his ways - might have contributed to his scoring run (Griffiths only notched four of his goals before January).

Celtic striker Stefan Scepovic
Scepovic is yet to breach double figures a year into his Celtic career

With Pukki, Berget and Guidetti now departed, and Stokes essentially being treated by the manager as one of his attacking midfield options, the onus is on Griffiths, Scepovic and Ciftci to lead the line for Celtic with the kind of power, energy, shrewd movement and incisiveness that will trouble defenders in European competition. All, in effect, still have something to prove.

On the basis of their respective periods at the club so far, Griffiths is the most natural finisher. Yet his all-round game can still improve.

Ciftci is stronger, more robust and would provide more of a pivot around which attacks could be built. He still has raw edges, to his temperament as well as his game, but the potential exists for him to progress.

Scepovic also remains a work in progress, even a year into his Celtic career. There was a mournful tone to the way he lamented in an interview during the summer the "long ball" game in Scottish football - although that is not how Celtic play - the physicality of the defending and the way that opponents sit so deep against the champions.

Yet the Serbian is 25 and joined the club in a £2.3m move from Sporting Gijon, so the expectation would have been for a greater impact.

Nonetheless, he spoke through the troubles of his opening campaign - which brought only six goals in 25 appearances - with Deila at the end of the season and there are still three years left on his contract.

Celtic manager Ronny Deila
Deila is aiming to take Celtic into the Champions League group stage

Competition for places contributed to Griffiths' form last season, and the same will apply this term, but also for Ciftci, who was essentially guaranteed a striking place at former club Dundee United, and Scepovic.

An amalgamation of all their respective abilities would produce the ideal central lone striker. For Deila, the challenge is to ensure that each of the players performs to their full potential and provide him with options for European games in which defenders tend to be better, more savvy and less easily overcome than domestic opponents.

Ciftci scored 16 goals for United last season and 17 the campaign before. At 23, he is the youngest of the three strikers and has the physical as well as the technical ability to thrive on the European stage.

His game needs to be more disciplined as much as his state of mind - he was booked 20 times and sent off once in the last two seasons - because at United he tended to try to do too much, often peeling out wide or dropping too deep at times when the team needed his presence more centrally.

Ciftci also at times lacked a little focus at training, but at Celtic the demand will be for him to raise the level of his game.

Deila has options up front, but one of the strikers needs to stake a claim to be the starting player in European competition.

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