Teemu Pukki: Aggressive Brondby 'ready to fight' against Hibernian

Teemu Pukki has Champions League experience from his time at Celtic
Pukki has Champions League experience from his time at Celtic
Hibernian v Brondby, Europa League qualifying, second round, first leg
Venue: Easter Road Date: 14 July Kick-off: 19:45
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Scotland, live text on BBC Sport website

Former Celtic striker Teemu Pukki expects an abrasive encounter with Hibernian on Thursday as his Brondby side travel to Easter Road on Europa League duty.

Pukki locks horns with ex-boss Neil Lennon - the man who brought him to Scotland, now in charge of Hibs - in the second round qualifier.

"It's going to be a hard game, probably physical, like always in Scotland," Pukki told BBC Scotland.

"We have to be ready to fight."

A forlorn figure

The 26-year-old Finn struggled to cope with the attrition of Scottish football, and the pressure of leading the line for the champions, when he moved to Celtic in 2013.

Pukki scored seven goals in his one full season at Parkhead, two coming against Hibs, before being loaned to the Danish outfit, ultimately making his move permanent with a three-year deal in June 2015.

"Scottish football doesn't suit me perfectly, how I want to play football," he reflects. "There's not so much space, because the other teams mostly defended quite deep against Celtic, so they took my weapon away.

"It's physical and tough; I think (the Scottish Premiership) is a good league - it was not so easy for me.

Teemu Pukki
Pukki endured a frustrating spell at Celtic

"Especially at Celtic, the pressure is higher than other teams. That is not easy, and when you don't play so well, and you hear people talking, it's not so easy. And there's a lot of pressure playing for Celtic.

"I always try not to read anything of people talking about me, but of course you can still feel pressure at the stadium, during the games, if you don't play well."

Despite his much-maligned Scottish sojourn, Pukki insists he harbours fond memories of his time at Celtic, and his interactions with Lennon.

"I have great memories of playing in the Champions League at Celtic Park," he says. "That was something I will never forget, and of course we won a championship and that's something no-one can take away from me.

"Neil Lennon was a great manager; he really got your team in the mood and wanting to play for him."

Happier times

Pukki reckons he is a much-improved model from the beleaguered forward of three seasons ago - the product of a less combustible environment and more minutes.

Teemu Pukki
Pukki feels he's a better player for his two seasons in Denmark

His strike rate - 10 goals last season, as Brondby finished fourth in the Danish Superliga - remains less than prolific, but the 48-cap international scored three as his side swept past Valur of Iceland 10-1 on aggregate in previous round.

"I've been getting more minutes, which is the most important thing for a striker," Pukki says. "I've been playing almost every game for two years.

"We've just got a new coach, and we have quite a young team, I would say. But we have been in the top five the last couple of seasons I have been here. I would say we play quite aggressive football, we really want to go forward.

"Of course the European games are important to the club and players. We flew to Edinburgh on Monday night; we wanted to come here a little bit earlier to be together as a team.

"I think it will be physical fight, but we will be ready for that."

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