JOHAN MJALLBY has his eye on the promised land of the Champions League – and he's backing Celtic's exciting crop of kids to lead the club out of the wilderness cast by the shadow of last season's early exit.
The Parkhead assistant manager is desperate to see his team qualify for the group stage of the competition by beating the Finnish champions HJK Helsinki over two-legs in their third qualifying round showdown before progressing through a two-leg play-off.
Although qualification would see the SPL champions embarking on a journey which would see them come up against some of the best teams in world football, it is a challenge that fills Mjallby with excitement rather than fear.
Especially since the road ahead includes possible glittering signposts to the likes of Old Trafford, the Bernabeu or Lionel Messi's stamping ground of the Nou Camp.
Neil Lennon has spent the last two years assembling a squad packed with youngsters who he is confident can all move on to bigger and better things further down the line with the likes of James Forrest, Victor Wanyama, Gary Hooper and Beram Kayal all attracting interest from other clubs.
Mjallby spends every day working beside them and helping them continue to make improvements and he believes the opportunity to go head-to-head with some of the best players in the business is the best learning experience they'll ever receive.
"The Champions League is an awesome competition," he said. "It is where every top player wants to be.
"You look at the teams involved every season such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Bayern Munich. If you don't want to come up against those teams then there is something wrong.
"Yes, it will be difficult. It always is when you go up against those teams but what an exciting challenge it is and it can only improve players.
"The better the standard you play against, the better the player you become. That is fact.
"Here at Celtic, we have a lot of young players and they'd definitely improve and gain invaluable experience from playing in the group stage of the Champions League.
"And I honestly believe they are good enough to give a very good account of themselves at that level as well."
The Celtic players were given a taste of what life in the Champions League group stage might be like last season when they competed in the Europa League and Mjallby is hopeful that experience can prove beneficial.
"The experience of playing in the Europa League last season should be beneficial when it comes to playing in Europe this season," said Mjallby.
"For quite a number of our players, it was their first time playing European football. Like everything, it is a learning curve.
"You gain experience from playing against foreign teams and the key is to make sure you become a better and more knowledgeable player from playing in that environment.
"When you look at the sides we came up against last term, and you analyse our performance in the group stage of the Europa League, I believe we more than managed to emerge with a great deal of credit.
"It isn't easy playing European football when you have an experienced team never mind a team that has a number of young players in it.
"When you look at our team last season, it was a young and fairly inexperienced squad.
"We found ourselves up against the eventual winners, Atletico Madrid, who are an outstanding team, we drew both home and away with Udinese who performed really well in Serie A last season and we drew away to Rennes before beating them at Celtic Park.
"So, overall, we did okay considering the three teams we came up against were all very good teams and done very well in their own domestic campaigns last term and hopefully that will stand us in good stead."
Mjallby, though, is convinced Celtic will face a tough test when they take on Helsinki in Glasgow on Wednesday night.
He said: "Neil Lennon went across to their game this week and we have watched them previously as well.
Also, I'll be speaking to some contacts of my own from over there to gain as much information on them as I possibly can.
"We know they are currently in the middle of their domestic season and that helps.
"They'll have a settled team but we really need to try and play well in the home game, control the game and create chances because we want to be heading over there with a positive result from the first leg."
Celtic haven't exactly been firing on all cylinders since they returned to pre-season this summer with just one win in five pre-season matches. However, the Celtic assistant coach isn't concerned.
"Do you know something, I honestly don't read too much into pre-season results," he said.
"I never have. As a player, I used to use them to make sure I was fully up and running for the start of the competitive games and my philosophy hasn't changed.
"What you have to remember is the preparation for pre-season matches is completely different to what it would be like for a competitive game.
"Usually, it is just a light session ahead of a game but at this stage of the season the players are being worked extremely hard every day.
"So, when the matches come along, their legs are still heavy. That is what pre-season training is all about.
"But the players are over the worst of it – they have completed the really hard work and now it is a case of trying to get a little bit of sharpness back.
"I thought there were improvements in our play the other night when we played Norwich City.
"We retained possession really well and we'll be looking for further improvements against Inter Milan on Saturday, although we also recognise they are a quality team.
"Then, of course, it is the big one for us. We need to be ready for it – and we will be."