The comparisons might not be immediately obvious at face value but Midtjylland share more than a little in common with Celtic.

For one, they enter the new season as unseated domestic champions; for another hitherto key players are set to leave and, for three, all eyes – media, press and supporters – are monitoring events with intrigue, watching for signs of weakness as they prepare to face Ange Postecoglou's similarly scrutinised side at Parkhead tonight.

Svend Graversen, the 50-year-old sporting director at Midtjylland, is unmoved. Amid suggestions at home that his club is in a mini-crisis following a 2-1 defeat in the league opener against Odense on Friday night, he exudes the calm authority of a man who has absolute faith in the structures that have brought two league titles in three years and established Midtjylland at the top of Danish football.

“When you are at Midtjylland every loss feels like you have something stuck in your heart but, of course, it was a hard defeat in the first game of the season,” he says. “We were not happy but that's football, you will lose games sometimes. We knew that in this period there would be some players going and that's how it is.”

Sweden midfielder Jens Cajuste is one of those on the brink of a transfer while Frank Onyeka, another midfielder who has won one cap for Nigeria, is being touted for a move to Brentford, the club whose director of football, Rasmus Ankersen, is also on the board at Midtjylland. Meanwhile, a report in a Danish newspaper claimed striker Sory Kaba refused to play in their pre-season friendly against Sigma Olomouc.

Much as it is at Celtic with Odsonne Edouard, Kristoffer Ajer et al, transfer machinations are part of “the eco-system”, argues Graversen.

“The players we have now, some of them will be gone,” he says, speaking prior to the appearance of the report about Kaba. “They have played Champions League for us, they are young so they need to have this ambition to move on, and we need to be able to replace them with an even higher level. Both for the players and for us there needs to be ambition. Let's say one is going to the Premier League, that's good for us, it's good for the player. If he stayed here would it be good for us? Of course it would, but we need to believe that we can replace this player with an even better player. [We need to find players] good enough to take the reins of Jens and Frank. That's the way we do it.”

Work has been underway for some time to find their replacements. Powered by the Smartodds database pioneered by majority shareholder Matthew Benham, Midtjylland have led the way in clever player recruitment over recent years while their academy has churned out future Denmark internationals at a prodigious rate. Graversen, who was appointed sporting director in 2017, says that what is more important than the systems themselves, is finding players who don't just fit the playing style but also the culture of the club. All this at a time when competition among clubs for players is more intense than ever.

“We use the Smartodds database to combine with the 'normal' scouting but for us it is year round. It is all about following players and having the list up to date so that we can make decisions not only in the windows but also before. [But] in the end it is [about the right] people. What we are looking into is trying to understand how people can interact better with each other, and also learn the playing style that we have faster and quicker but also the individual performance. This is what we are looking into now: how people learn and can we combine that with the culture we have.”

When Midtjylland were founded in 1999, they made bold claims about where they hoped to be by the end of the decade. Graversen, who arrived at the club in 2002, says that stating their goals in public is not arrogance but rather a reminder to all inside the club.

“The key is always 'how to get better',” he says. “We are never satisfied. The law of attraction is very important for us, we always aim high, we always say it out loud 'We want to be in the Champions League, we want to be the dominant team of Denmark' and this is how we do it – just to stay alert. If we are not performing then we know that people, the press, other clubs, whatever, they will come after us. This is a way to always feel the uncertainty that is necessary to keep on driving forward so that you never hit the brakes. Nobody in 2004 would have thought that we would be playing Champions Lague football in 2021 but we said it and this is what we will keep doing.”

The bullish sentiment extends to the coming Champions League ties against Celtic.

“Losing? We don't like losing and playing against Celtic will not be easy – that's how it is. It is a fantastic club. We had Erik [Svitachenko] playing there, he told us a lot about Celtic but when we go over there, we go over there to win.”