Champions League: Maribor look for Celtic Park 'energy'

Maribor training at Celtic Park
NK Maribor captain Marcos Tavares (right) and Agim Ibraimi training at Celtic Park

Manager Ante Simundza believes Maribor will be inspired by the big crowd at Celtic Park for second leg of their Champions League play-off.

"The atmosphere will be very hot but I don't think that will be a problem," he said, with the teams locked at 1-1.

"The 60,000 fans give energy to the team and of course make it very difficult but we know how to react.

"We have to be focused early on but that will not take our powers, it might give us additional energy."

Maribor, who have been eliminated at this stage in the last two seasons, have only reached the tournament's group phase once - 15 years ago, while Celtic are looking to make it there for the third season running.

But Simundza insists his side are confident they can progress, saying all of the pressure is on the hosts.

"I don't know if it will affect them because Celtic is a very big team with a nice history and they are used to playing in such games but the pressure is certainly on them," he said.

"I don't gamble but we have an equal chance of going through to the group stage and I think it will be a very tough match.

"I had watched DVDs and my assistant had given me information which meant Celtic did not surprise me in any way, what I expected from them I saw in Maribor.

"It would be a big achievement if we qualified. We played well in Maribor but we have to play a little bit better in Glasgow."

Celtic suffered their first domestic defeat of the season on Saturday, 1-0 away to Inverness Caledonian Thistle, after manager Ronny Deila made 10 changes to his side.

Simundza also rested players at the weekend, with captain Marcos Tavares and Macedonia winger Agim Ibraimi starting on the bench for a 3-0 win over Zavrc.

And Tavares thinks Celtic's obligation to attack at home will leave space for Maribor to exploit.

The 30-year Brazilian-born striker said: "I believe that we have a great opportunity. Celtic will have to play offensively but that will leave us some space to attack and get a positive result.

"It would be a big thing to qualify for the group stages, every player wishes to play in the Champions League and now is the time for Maribor to play there for the second time."

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