Shaun Maloney is under no illusions as to how difficult the task facing Celtic will be this Wednesday night at the Emirates Stadium.
The Hoops will try to overturn a two-goal deficit from the first-leg of the UEFA Champions League play-off and against an Arsenal team who have scored 10 goals in their opening two Premier League games, it’s going to be tough.
However, Celtic have started their own domestic season in impressive form, with Tony Mowbray’s side following up their opening day 3-1 victory at Pittodrie with an impressive 5-2 home win over St Johnstone at the weekend.
And Maloney, who scored two goals and set up Marc-Antoine Fortune for his first goal in the Hoops to deservedly win the Man of the Match Award, says the Celtic players will approach the tie believing they can still reach the group stages of the UEFA Champions League.
“If we can nick the first goal as we did in Moscow, that would give us a chance to get the tie back, and start to put Arsenal under a bit of pressure,” said Maloney. “We know we need a great result.
“We’ve not given up the tie yet. We’ve not settled for playing in the Europa League, we cannot do that.
“We know how difficult it is going to be able to go through and that the odds are massively against us, but we have to believe that we can win at the Emirates.”
Maloney was in sparkling form against St Johnstone on Saturday. As well as his own two goals – including a rare header – he also turned provider, dancing past two challenges down the left-hand side before sliding a pass into the path of Fortune who slotted the ball home for the first of Celtic’s five goals on the day.
“It was an enjoyable game and we played some really nice stuff,” said Maloney. “When a new manager comes in there is always that doubt. You have to prove yourself and every position is up for grabs. It’s a big confidence boost when he says you are a big part of his plans and hopefully he is still saying that in six months time.”
Last weekend against Aberdeen it was Aiden McGeady who grabbed a double, while Maloney did the same against St Johnstone. And both players have started the season in impressive form.
“Under the last manager, it was either me or Aiden on the left-hand side,” Maloney admitted. “It’s good to play with Aiden and I enjoy it. Going forward we looked great at times and when Aiden is on his game there are not many who can stop him.
“During pre-season we both missed a few chances we should have done better with and the manager told us he wanted us to get into double figures this season. To be fair, I think he’s right. We should be scoring more and getting to that target.”