Aberdeen stronger this term, says Celtic manager Ronny Deila

By Richard WilsonBBC Scotland
Kenny McLean and Emilio Izaguirre
Celtic won all four of their meetings with Aberdeen last season
Scottish Premiership: Aberdeen v Celtic
Date: Saturday, 12 September Venue: Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen Kick-off: 12:30 BST
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland 810MW/DAB/online; live text commentary on BBC Sport website

Celtic manager Ronny Deila believes Aberdeen are better equipped to mount a title challenge this season.

The Dons finished as runners-up to Celtic in last term's title race, 17 points behind Deila's men.

"They are a better team this year than last year," said the Norwegian, whose side face Aberdeen on Saturday.

"They have brought in good players and kept their team. They have more experience and have started well, it's going to be a tough game."

Celtic have taken 16 points from six games this season - five more than the same stage last year - while Aberdeen have won all five of their league games so far.

"Both of us have started well so it's a big game and I'm looking forward to it," Deila added.

"Last year we started talking about the title in January, now it's September. Nothing will be finished after Saturday but the team that wins will put themselves in a better position and take energy and confidence into their next games."

Last season's meetings
Celtic 2-1 Aberdeen (13 Sept)Aberdeen 1-2 Celtic (9 Nov)
Celtic 4-0 Aberdeen (1 Mar)Aberdeen 0-1 Celtic (10 May)

Deila believes the statistics show the improvement in his own side while acknowledging Celtic have been conceding too many goals recently.

However, he will not make wholesale changes to his defence despite signing Jozo Simunovic and Tyler Blackett late in the transfer window.

One of the two defenders will need to step into the side to replace Virgil van Dijk, who left for Southampton on the final day of the window, and Deila believes Croatian Simunovic has the potential to be better than the Dutchman.

"We have had a fantastic player in Virgil and I'm happy he got the chance [to move on]," Deila said.

"We have developed him and now was the time for him to move on.

Ronny Deila and Jozo Simunovic
Deila sees great potential in new signing Simunovic

"Good players have come in and I'm looking forward to working with them and getting a new Virgil or better.

"[Simunovic] has the potential. We scouted Jozo for a long time and he has the attributes to make him into a big player.

"He is 20, it will take time to get him to the highest level, but he is a very talented boy."

Simunovic says he does not feel any pressure to live up to his price tag, which is believed to be around £4.5m.

"I believe in myself and the money is not important, just that I play good. The coaches know why they signed me, because I can help this team," said the Croatia Under-21 cap.

"I like Celtic's style, how they play football. I want to be a champion, that's the most important reason I came here, and I want to play in the Champions League."