ROBERTO Mancini has a reputation for at times being a difficult man but was charm personified when speaking highly of Celtic yesterday.

Zenit St Petersburg, the Russian club he joined at the start of this season as manager, are favourites for tonight’s Europa League last 32 tie, and some would make them close to odds-on, but this famously meticulous coach is taking nothing for granted.

“I think this (Celtic’s position in Scotland) could be a problem,” said Mancini who was Inter Milan manager during a gripping tie in this competition three years ago.

“But Celtic are a very good team. Many times they talk about going to play in the Premier League. However, their history is here and I think they can improve here.

“It is always a difficult game in Glasgow. Celtic at home are a very tough team. Their supporters always push the team. It is incredible.

“We could have a problem as it is the first game after a two month break. We need to be at our best to reach the next round.”

Zenit are the top scorers in the Europa League so far. No team conceded as many as Celtic in the Champions League group stages.

But Mancini said: “Celtic played in a difficult group. I think most teams would lose to PSG and Bayern Munich. It was a tough group and they will be better in the Europa League

“If we are able to win this game that would be a good result. I don’t think Brendan would agree with me. It is important for my team to try to be offensive and try to score.”