Celtic plan for Maribor tie as Uefa chiefs snub Warsaw plea for fast-track appeal

CELTIC were today given the green light to press ahead with their plans to travel to Slovenia for next week's Champions League play-off tie with NK Maribor.

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Legia Warsaw's attempt to fast-track their case for re-instatement to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) was derailed when Uefa refused to agree to take part in a quick-fire hearing.

When decisions are time-critical - as this one is because the Champions League play-off games are scheduled to begin next week - CAS has the facility to hold provisional hearings within a few days.

But one of the main conditions for this is that both parties - in this case, Legia and Uefa - agree to the fast-track process.

Uefa are not willing to go down this route, so it is now highly unlikely CAS will consider Legia's case for several weeks.

It is a hammer blow to Legia's lingering hopes of overturning the decision by Uefa to rule their win over Celtic at Murrayfield in the second leg of their third qualifying tie be declared forfeit, the 3-0 result enough to see the Hoops through on the away goals rule.

It is a relief to Celtic who faced the prospect of being sent to play Aktobe in Kazakhstan in the Europa Cup play-off on Thursday if CAS did hold a fast-track hearing and found in Legia's favour.

With the first leg of Celtic's tie against Maribor scheduled for Wednesday, and the squad set to fly to Slovenia on Tuesday morning, it would have created massive problems for the Hoops and their fans.

But because of the time restraints, and in the belief Legia would not succeed in their attempt to have the case heard by CAS on Monday, Celtic are already putting their arrangements in place, including flights and hotels.

NK Maribor are selling tickets for the match, for which Efe Ambrose will still be suspended following his red card in Warsaw, and Celtic have announced the return a week on Tuesday will be free to season-ticket holders.

Ronny Deila is confident he can protect his players from any fall-out and after tomorrow's game against Dundee United will begin briefing them on Maribor's strengths and weaknesses.

The Norwegian has already warned the team that has matched Celtic in winning their national championship for the past three years will be every bit as tough a nut to crack as Legia, who defeated the Hoops 6-1 on aggregate before their rule-breaking was punished by Uefa.

"Maribor are a good team, well organised," said Deila of the side that got through to the play-off round by beating Srinjski and Macabbi Tel Aviv.

"They are compact and good on the counter attack, and they have some good players. We know what we're going to meet, and we have to get up to the level in our performances now."

Deila accepts that he and his players are fortunate to have a second chance to get into the group stage of the Champions League.

They shocked him by the level of their performance in Warsaw, where they crashed 4-1, and he warned: "We have to step up a level.

"But we are now two or three weeks further on and we're back at Celtic Park.

"We also have got players in, and I am looking forward first to the game against Dundee United."

Deila hopes James Forrest can be a big player for the club against Maribor. He is fully aware of the 23-year-old's fragile frame, but believes that, handled properly, he can bring much, much more to the team.

Deila said: "With the individual quality he has, Jamesie can be a top, top player. But he's not even near to being a top, top player right now because of his physical shape.

"If you're going to play in Europe, you have to be (working) defensively and offensively all the time.

"You also have to do it in training. If you do that, the potential he has is fantastic."


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