Former Celtic defender Dariusz takes a swipe at lack of progress in Scottish football

FORMER Celtic defender, Dariusz Wdowczyk, has turned the heat up on the Hoops ahead of their Champions League qualifier against Legia Warsaw.

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Bahrudin Atajic hangs his head after his penalty miss as St Pauli players celebrate
Bahrudin Atajic hangs his head after his penalty miss as St Pauli players celebrate

The Polish international _who played at Parkhead between 1989 and 1994 and is now coach of Pogon Szczecin in his homeland - took a swipe at what he considers to be the lack of progress in the Scottish game which currently has Celtic shooting for their fourth league championship in a row.

Speaking before Legia - the club from where he moved to become a Celt, and which he managed to the title in 2006 -warmed up for Wednesday's first leg tie with a 3-1 win over Cracovia Krakow, Wdowczyk claimed: "I don't follow Celtic, but I don't think Scottish football has made such progress that we can't beat them, either Legia when they play Celtic, or when our national team meets Scotland (in the Euro qualifiers)."

Given that the Polish league has gone 17 years without a representative in the Champions League group stage, and how far down the rankings their national team has fallen in that time - even finishing last in their group when co-hosts of the 2012 Euro Championships - that may seem a bit rich.

But it appears to be a view shared by Legia boss, Henning Berg, who played for a short time for Rangers before moving into the dugout.

He said: "The Polish league is slightly better than the Scottish league."

He qualified this by adding that he still believes Celtic's experience makes them favourites to go through in this tie.

But it is perhaps a hint at the confidence - justified or not - which is beginning to build within the Legia support that progress to the play-off can be negotiated.

In the last few days, the infamously-fanatical fans have been snapping up tickets for the game.

Following the fright they got when Irish part-timers, St Pat's, drew 1-1 in the Pepsi Arena in the first leg of their second qualifying round tie - it required an injury-time equaliser from Miroslav Radovic to prevent a real upset - it might have been expected caution would have surpassed confidence.

Perhaps the 5-0 victory in the return leg in Dublin has convinced everyone at Legia the first game was just a blip, a bad day at the office.

Whatever the reason for the Poles' self-belief, Ronny Deila will be intent on using it against Legia.

He was in Dublin, along with assistant John Collins, to watch St Pat's capitulate in the closing 21 minutes of the match to give the final result a lop-sided look.

While Deila was overseeing a young Celtic side take on St Pauli in Hamburg on Saturday - they lost 1-0, with Bahrudin Atajic blasting a late penalty, won by Paul McMullan, over the crossbar to spurn a golden opportunity to avoid the new manager suffering his first defeat - he was having the Polish club's game in Kracow closely watched and analysed.

The dossier on this week's opposition is growing by the day. By the time Deila leads his side to Poland tomorrow morning, the players will be well-served with information on who stands between them and the play offs next month.

Berg would have learned nothing if he sent his scouts to watch Celtic in Hamburg.

OF the XI who started, only captain-for-the-day, Nir Biton, has any real chance of lining up against Legia.

Craig Gordon could be parachuted in, should the anticipated £9m bid for Fraser Fortser by Southampton trigger his sale. And the Scotland cap got his match sharpness further honed when he played the first 45 minutes against St Pauli.

He had no chance with the only goal of the game, the result of a mis-control by left-back, Filip Twardzik, which allowed Christopher Nothe to score with a low drive from close range.

As Forster put his feet up back in Scotland, along with the rest of the first team, Lukasz Zaluska took over at the break, and pulled off one excellent save from a free-kick.

By contrast, Legia saw their No.1 keeper, Dusan Kuciak, limp off with half an hour of the league game against Cracovia remaining.

The man who has been first choice for the past four years felt pain in a knee, and was replaced by Konrad Jaocha.

But Berg insisted the decision to take Kuciak off was more of a precaution ahead of the match against Celtic, and the swift action is expected to result in the keeper recovering in time to be in his usual spot on Wednesday.

Berg was also relieved to see young winger, Jakub Kosecki, return to the form which makes him such an important part of the Legia attack.

He hit Legia's equaliser in Krakow, and continued to pose the home side problems as Tomasz Jodowiec and Ivan Vrdoljik scored to make the points safe and build on the midweek win in Ireland.

DEILA believes he knows how Legia will play in these ties, and is more concerned about how his own players perform.

Anthony Stokes is in contention to return to the starting XI after recovering from the hamstring strain.

Deila confirmed: "Anthony will be training today, so he is ready to play."

Those who had hoped to muscle their way into the manager's plans if the Irishman didn't make it by playing well against St Pauli missed their opportunity.

Amido Balde was back after a family bereavement, but looked well off the required standard.

Tony Watt was sharper, but too eager to impress, often making the wrong decisions when in possession.

He grabbed the ball when livewire sub McMullan was brought down for the penalty, but instruction from the bench reminded him it had already been established Atajc would take any spot-kicks.

Deila was not impressed, and indicated he thought Watt's intervention may have been a mitigating factor in Atajic missing the target.

Watt's education under former schoolteacher Deila will continue for some time to come.


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