Deila's dilemma: Leigh Griffiths or Nadir Ciftci?

Deila's dilemma: Leigh Griffiths or Nadir Ciftci?

TONIGHT Celtic take on Qarabag in the second-leg of their Champions League Third Qualifying Round tie and, so far, the focus of the media outlets both here and abroad has been on the state of the pitch in Azerbaijan.

The Bhoys take with them a slender 1-0 lead following last week’s performance, which was somewhat of a bumpy one. If reports from Azerbaijan are to be believed, then Wednesday’s game will be much the same, but in terms of the surface rather than the actual game of football.

The first half was a nervy one with numerous missed chances. Much like myself, many Celtic fans were unhappy with manager Ronny Deila’s first choice and summer signing from Dundee United, Nadir Ciftci, who was preferred to last season's top scorer Leigh Griffiths.

Some joked on Twitter when Griffiths was subbed on that regardless of what he was to do in this game he would be sitting on the bench again come Saturday.

Thankfully, they were wrong, as Griffiths did start in Celtic’s first league game of the season against Ross County and – surprise, surprise – who opened the scoring? Yes, it was Griffiths confirming to many just why it is so vital to have him starting every game for the Hoops.

You just have to check out the official Celtic Twitter feed to see the comments when the starting XI was released – fans were clearly shocked to see Griffiths in the line-up.

The question on everyone’s mind this week is will Ronny continue with in-form Griffiths or stick with his summer signing Ciftci? I believe, given more time, Ciftci will do well at Celtic but time is something we don’t have just yet. They need to qualify for Europe and in my opinion going with Griffiths is the only option for Ronny.

When rumours of Griffiths arriving at Celtic began to break last year I would be the first to admit I wasn’t impressed, due to the scandals that followed him and the fact I just didn’t think he was good enough for the Bhoys. They were my main issues.

However, I’ve been proven completely wrong – I think Griffiths has gone above and beyond to prove he is worthy of a place in this Celtic side. He’s a player that has sparked many opinions online, but the simple fact is – whether you love him or loathe him – he scores goals.

Although I expect Celtic to beat Qarabag tonight, it is Celtic at the end of the day and in my 24 years of supporting them we have had some major upsets against teams you would fully expect us to put more than enough past. And now with reports suggesting the team aren’t happy with the conditions over there, I don’t expect this to be a walk-over.

The Scottish champions have the goal to defend in Baku and they will be grateful for it. It took the Bhoys until the 82nd minute to get on the score-sheet with Dedryck Boyata heading in a corner from substitute Kris Commons. With Celtic TV delaying coverage by an hour, many of us overseas had to await updates online or over the radio.

The news reports of little or no training facilities and a pitch that seem virtually unplayable isn’t ideal and there is no doubt the evening will be a challenging one all round. I’m just hoping to see a start for Griffiths, but an early goal will do well to calm the nerves slightly. That said, from the evidence of the first leg, this tie is far from over.