Samaras: Our Champions League time is now
By: Laura Brannan in Sweden on 20 Aug, 2012 15:27
GEORGIOS Samaras is one of only three current players to have played in the UEFA Champions League, and one of only two while wearing a Celtic strip.
Along with Scott Brown, and Beram Kayal when he was at Maccabi Haifa, Samaras has fond memories of the competition´s group stages and is desperate to clinch qualification again.
Two games against Helsinborgs stand in Celtic´s way, but speaking at the press conference in Sweden, the Greek internationalist explained why he thinks Celtic can do it this year.
"We are going to have European football until December but we want to raise the bar a little bit higher," he said. "Our target is to be in the Champions League groups.
"Of course to play in the Europa League it is European football but we did that last year and we were a little bit unlucky in the last game not to go through.
"Our team is a little bit more mature now and we are ready to go on to the hardest level. We will do our best to reach the group stages.
"We didn’t need a winning result against Helsinki to start believing in ourselves. We are at the same team, we have had the same manager and the same team-mates for the last three years.
"The manager has put into the team his own mentality, we have the same players and we are getting to know each other better and better each day.
"We know our strengths and our weaknesses too, of course. We are ready to go into the game and be competitive. We are ready for the highest level."
Helsinborgs may be half way through their season, but just like the last qualification round when they went to Finland, Celtic will not let that affect them.
Samaras does not want his side to sit back because he is confident if they go for it, they will be capable of putting on a show.
"We know our qualities and we are going to try and play our game," he said. "We are going to try and attack, create chances and score some goals. We have two games of 90 minutes, maybe more, and you never know what´s going to happen.
"It´s two games home and away, no matter which one is first. I don’t think it makes a big difference.
"It is an important game for us. We want to play at the top level and Champions League is the hardest level in European football. We have to be ready physically and mentally to go and be competitive."
Meanwhile, Samaras admitted he is also happy on he left wing, a position he made his own last season. Despite signing as a striker five years ago, he believes he works better with the current players when he is out wide.
"I like to create, I have more space on the left to make my runs," he said. "For the moment Hoops and Stoksey play so well together, and score so many goals, so I think it´s better for me to play on the left side and try and create for them."