Matthews: Signs are good for us

PA Sport
Adam Matthews expects Celtic to be at '100 per cent' for their Champions League qualifier
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Adam Matthews expects Celtic to be at '100 per cent' for their Champions League qualifier

Adam Matthews shrugged off Celtic's poor pre-season results to claim the Parkhead side are ready for Wednesday night's Champions League third qualifying round first leg against HJK Helsinki.

The Hoops' 1-1 home draw against Inter Milan on Saturday - where a wonderful Kris Commons strike just before the break was cancelled out by Rodrigo Palacio in the final minute - saw them put in a much better performance than their 4-0 thumping by Ajax last Saturday, which was followed up by their 1-0 defeat to Norwich at Celtic Park in midweek.

It left Neil Lennon's men with one win in six warm-up games, but Matthews said: "We haven't done ourselves justice this pre-season performance-wise. Ajax was an eye-opener for us. We showed we have improved since. But yesterday I think it all came together. I think everyone played their best game of the pre-season so it is a good sign for us.

He added: "We started the game well and kept it going and were unlucky not to get a victory in the end. We pushed a top class team all the way and I thought we deserved to get the win."

HJK Helsinki won 9-1 on aggregate against KR Reykjavik in the last round and are halfway through their season. Nevertheless, Celtic are favourites to go through and Matthews believes the Hoops can live with the expectancy.

"You always have pressure at a club like Celtic," he said. "I think it will be massive for the club if we can get through to the Champions League. But we know it's going to be a tough game so we have to be at 100% and we are looking forward to it.

"It will obviously give them a slight advantage (to have played so many competitive games), but we have had a good pre-season. We have done a lot of conditioning so we are fully confident we can match them for 90 minutes and do a job."

Lennon will discover on Sunday the extent of the ankle injuries Commons and Anthony Stokes picked up on Saturday which left them doubtful for midweek.

Commons hobbled off near the end leaving Celtic to finish the game with 10 men after they had used all their outfield substitutes. Striker Stokes was carried off on a stretcher in the first half after blocking a touchline clearance from Esteban Cambiasso.

Matthews said: "We picked up a few knocks which hasn't helped but everyone put a good shift in and a good performance. Hopefully they are not too serious and they will be fighting fit for Wednesday."

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