Efe reckons Celtic's fans ensure team are in with a shout

EFE AMBROSE predicts fan power can help Celtic blow NK Maribor away tonight, and send the Hoops sailing through to the Champions League.

Loading Comments
Share
Print
Kris Commons and Efe Ambrose are fully focused as they limber up for Celtic's crunch Euro play-off against Maribor
Kris Commons and Efe Ambrose are fully focused as they limber up for Celtic's crunch Euro play-off against Maribor

The Nigerian defender insists the combination of playing in front of their own passionate fans at Celtic Park, and the incentive of a third straight appearance in the group stage of Europe's elite competition, will make Ronny Deila's side irrepressible.

However, Ambrose - who has been at the centre of all the drama endured by Celtic in this unique run to the play-offs - has seen enough to know nothing can be taken for granted.

There remains one major final hurdle to clear before anyone can look forward to Thursday's draw.

And, given what has gone before, with heavy defeats, red cards, reinstatements and confusion over suspensions, he needs no reminding that there's many a slip twixt cup and lip.

Confident though he is the Hoops will be celebrating another great European result, Ambrose has a simple message to anyone who reckons they are already in the draw.

"No we are not, there is one more game to go," he said.

"So the most important thing is to keep our heads and focus, and be determined because we know that Maribor are not an easy team to play against.

"They are tactically disciplined. They have a game plan, and they play to it.

"They will certainly know how they want to play at Celtic Park.

"But the most important thing is that we are now back at Celtic Park, with our fans behind us and the atmosphere there.

"With this, I don't believe Marobor can withstand us."

Ambrose is now one of the most experienced big game campaigners in Deila's squad, with World Cup, Confederations Cup and Africa Cup of Nations knowledge to draw on, as well as the lessons learned in previous Champions League runs.

He knows it is what you do on the night that counts. Which is why he has no problem dismissing the defeat the Hoops suffered at the weekend in Inverness.

"It was not the result we wanted going into this game," he conceded. "But, at the same time, it will not affect us tonight.

"We know we need to work harder. We know there are many more players who will be involved in this game, and we will see who the manager decides should play.

"But I believe whoever plays against Maribor will know the mentality of wearing the green and white of Celtic and what is at stake."

Whatever happens in the build-up to tonight's crucial play-off tie, Ambrose is confident it will not faze him.

Given the bizarre circumstances in which he found himself at the centre before last week's first leg in Slovenia, he is entitled to say this without fear of contradiction.

Sent off in Poland as Legia won 4-1, he had sat out the return at Murrayfield.

And, like everyone else at the club, he bemoaned the fact the Champions League appeared to have gone for the season.

Uefa's intervention changed all of that.

But, as the squad flew out to Maribor a week ago today, Ambrose remained at home, safely tucked up in bed.

He had been told he still had one more game of his two-match ban to serve, and was taking full advantage of the opportunity to grab some much-needed rest.

Then the call came through from Celtic that there had been a miscommunication, and he was indeed eligible to play as his punishment for the red card in Warsaw was only one match.

That sparked a race against time to get him to Maribor to take part in the game, though Deila eventually decided the defender's exertions in getting there had not left him in the best state of mind.

Ambrose eventually came on as a sub in the second half to help shore up the defence as Maribor pushed to deny Celtic the draw they richly deserved.

The happy-go-lucky Nigerian can smile now as he recalls the events leading up to his appearance. He explained: "I found out on Tuesday afternoon that I was free to play and had to get to Maribor.

"I know how important the Champions League is for the season, and for Celtic as a club, so I was happy to be able to help.

"I was at home sleeping when the call came, and of course, I was surprised.

"But I am a professional, so it was no problem. I love my job, and that is playing football.

"So I just took my bag and went straight to the airport.

"There was a private jet waiting to take me from Glasgow, but I don't know any details about it."

He went on: "I didn't fly to Maribor. I landed at another airport, then was driven for about an hour to the team hotel in Maribor where I joined up with the rest of the boys.

"It was good to be with the rest of the team, and to get on during the second half."

Deila elected to start with Jason Denayer as Virgil van Dijk's central defensive partner, Mikael Lustig returning to the right-back position.

The manager is keeping his cards close to his chest again this time around, in terms of which players will be asked to deliver the result which can define their season.

As ever, Ambrose is ready and willing to do whatever is asked of him.

He would like to start, but said: "It depends what the coach's game plan is because Jason and Virgil were a good pairing in Maribor.

"Virgil and I had a good partnership, then Jason came in and has been playing well.

"But, of course, it is down to the coach what he thinks is going to be best on the night.

"The most important thing is not who plays, but that the team gets the right result.

"If I am called upon, I will try to do my best, as I try to do every time I am on the pitch."

Football

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on Evening Times on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis. If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

177690

Have you got a story?

Contact the news desk on 0141 302 6520 or email news@eveningtimes.co.uk
A weekly round up of social highlights

A weekly round up of social highlights

Cat's Eyes on Glasgow

James needs a sit down and Edward Scissorhands pierces my heart.

Times Out

Entertainment

Lifestyle

TV Advert
Gail’s Gab

Gail’s Gab

Gail Sheridan is a mother-of-one and wife to Tommy and she likes to get political with the hot topic of the week in her column Gail’s Gab.

Michelle McManus

Michelle McManus

Sussed in the City

Take a bow Glasgow you’re the real star

Janice Bell

Janice Bell

You couldn’t make up half the stuff that happens to PA Janice Bell- some of the jams she gets herself into are worth a story or two.