Collins: Van Dijk Will Be Focused

24 August 2015, 12:05

Football Stadiums Celtic Park

Celtic defender Virgil van Dijk will be fully focused on their Champions League decider against Malmo, according to assistant manager John Collins.

Van Dijk checked in at Glasgow Airport on Monday morning for the flight to Sweden after Celtic dismissed weekend reports that he would miss the play-off second leg ahead of a move to Southampton.

Collins denied any transfer deal was in place for the 24-year-old Dutch defender to leave Parkhead before the transfer window closes.

And he is confident van Dijk will shrug off the speculation as Celtic defend a 3-2 lead in Sweden.

"It's water off a duck's back,'' Collins said. "It's what happens when you're a good player, there is always speculation.

"I'm 100 per cent sure Virgil will be focused on performing for us tomorrow night.

"He is 100 per cent ready to play. I thought he was terrific for us last week in the first leg and I have no doubt he will be terrific again tomorrow night as well.''

Collins added: "I'm hopeful he will be here long term. The most important thing is he is going to be ready for tomorrow night. He is a huge player for us and he'll be ready.''

Mikael Lustig was the first Celtic player to check in but he remains a doubt after picking up a hamstring strain in the first leg.

Collins said: "He has made a lot of progress in the last few days and obviously we will give him right up to the last minute to see if he can make it. It's safe to say he is maybe 50-50.''

Collins dismissed any fitness concerns over Stuart Armstrong and Nir Bitton and brushed off some of the comments emanating from the opposition since the first leg.

Malmo boss Age Hariede claimed Celtic were not fit enough while some of their players branded the Scottish champions in unfavourable terms including "pigs'' and "children''.

Collins said: "It doesn't bother me one little bit because it's about performing on the pitch, preparing for the match. They can say what they want, it doesn't affect me and I'm 100 per cent sure it doesn't affect our players. We don't need any extra motivation.''

Meanwhile, Collins insisted he had no regrets about his controversial recent comments that opposition players in Scotland were not "quick enough or clever enough'' to expose gaps in Celtic's formation as he compared them to European teams.

Collins added: "I said what I said. I wasn't disrespectful to anybody. Anybody that was in the interview knows what I said, maybe one or two wrote it differently, but I wasn't disrespectful to anyone.''

When asked about the furore his comments caused, after being criticised by several Ladbrokes Premiership managers, he said: "I'm not surprised, that's football.''

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