COPENHAGEN manager Ståle Solbakken says he should have signed Kristoffer Ajer as a youngster when he had the chance, but reckons he would have no chance of affording the Norwegian or any of his Celtic teammates now.

Solbakken was aware of Ajer when he was coming through the ranks of Norwegian side IK Start, but compatriot Ronny Deila got in first to snap up the defender for Celtic in 2016.

He now regrets not acting sooner having seen how Ajer has developed since joining the Scottish champions.

“I don’t think we could afford any of Celtic’s players,” Solbakken said.

“Maybe I should have signed Ajer when he was 17 and playing in Norway. We were probably too slow then.

“We knew about him very early when he was a striker and then a central midfielder at Start, their captain when he was very young. Maybe we should have pulled the trigger then.

“But that’s the only one I think we could have afforded in competition with Celtic.”

Solbakken was full of praise for Celtic prior to tonight’s tie, believing it is imperative his side get a positive result at home to have any chance of progression when they visit Celtic Park next week.

He doesn’t think though that ring-rustiness will be a problem for Copenhagen despite his men just returning from a two-month winter break, though he conceded that preparations had been far from ideal, with training being disrupted by the poor weather conditions in the Danish capital.

“Celtic have been great in Europe by beating Lazio twice, beating Rennes,” Stolbakken said.

“They are rock-solid and that is credit to the manager coming back after Brendan Rodgers and doing so well.

“We’ve followed Celtic closely since they had a Norwegian coach [Ronny Deila] and I’ve seen the last seven or eight games which have been really good.

“It’s a 50-50 tie here. If you see Celtic’s last nine or ten games and how they have coped with the defeat to Rangers, they’ve had a tremendous comeback and their stability has been very good. “They’ve had very few changes in their line-up, they’ve played 3-5-2 in seven out of the nine games and it’s really worked for them, they have three powerhouses at centre-back and they have a solid midfield and the partnership they have up front has worked really well for them.

“They have found a different rhythm to us- we’ve played friendlies and had a very weak game in the opening game after the shutdown, especially in the second-half.

“We’ve also had a few more struggles with short and long-term injuries. At the moment I only have four or five players who are definite starters.

“Mr Lennon has more security in that way because they are used to competitive games. But in one game here anything can happen, as we’ve shown so many times. If a good thing happens for us, and we take a good result into the second game, then anything can happen.

“I will be disappointed if we don’t go out and have our moments."