By: Martin Dalziel in Gran Canaria on 13 Jan, 2015 20:27
DEFEAT against Sparta Prague in the Maspalomas Cup today (Tuesday) was not enough to take the shine off what Celtic manager Ronny Deila regards as having been a successful winter training camp.
The Bhoys went down 3-2 to the Czech side in their final game of their mid-season camp after losing 1-0 to PSV Eindhoven on Saturday but the Hoops boss remained positive about his team’s progress over the past week in Gran Canaria.
The match against PSV saw the Hoops test themselves against tough European opposition ahead of February’s crunch tie against Inter Milan in the Europa League, and today’s game against Sparta Prague gave the manager a chance to introduce some of the younger players into the team.
Calum Waters, Jamie Lindsay, Paul McMullan and Joe Thomson all featured, with Thomson adding a fine second-half strike to Leigh Griffiths’ opener to give the Bhoys hope after three first-half goals from Sparta Prague.
Warm weather and a break from normality have also afforded the Norwegian a chance to work with his players in greater detail in training and given the team a chance to relax before a hectic schedule of games in the second half of the season.
And the Celtic manager believes that despite recording two losses in two games, the trip has been a success.
He told the official Celtic website: “I think we got what we wanted out of the tournament. We had a good time together and played two matches against good opponents.
“We had a good start to the game, especially in the first 20 minutes, but at the end of the first-half we were too open and we conceded some stupid chances.
“In the second-half we came back into it and had a very good 45 minutes. So I’m pleased with the performance but it was two easy goals we conceded.”
The trip to Gran Canaria also gave players returning from injury a chance to get some game-time in a relaxed atmosphere away from competitive fixtures.
Michael Lustig, Charlie Mulgrew and Jason Denayer all made the trip on the mend from injury, and Belgian defender Denayer got a chance to play today after seven weeks out.
He slotted into central defence alongside Irishman Eoghan O’Connell, who captained the side, and the Hoops boss added that he was pleased with the players’ performances.
“It has been a long time since Jason has played and he played okay but it’s just the start for him,” he added. “He came off after the first half so we wouldn’t take any chances.”
The manager also praised Celtic youngster Joe Thomson, whose second-half strike dragged the Celts back into the match and ensured a tense finish.
“Joe played well, together with Paul McMullan who did a good job and Jamie Lindsay who did very well today,” the manager said.
“It’s nice to see. They have grown a lot in only a week and they have got some confidence from taking part with the first-team and that’s very important.
“Now it’s very positive with the players who have been out with injury as a lot of them are available now very quick and we have a strong squad going into the return to domestic action.”