Maloney keen for European return
© AFP

Celtic star Shaun Maloney is desperate to start Wednesday's UEFA Champions League opener against Danish side Aalborg after missing out on European football last season.

The 25-year-old, who recently returned to the club after 16 months at Aston Villa, admits to a touch of jealousy as he watched Celtic's exploits in the Champions League from afar last season. The player was just over a year into his time with the English Premier League outfit when he watched the Hoops take on Barcelona in a last 16 tie.

And now Maloney, who scored in the 4-2 victory against Motherwell at the weekend, hopes he has played his way into the starting 11 so he can savour the famous atmosphere found at Celtic Park on European nights. "I was quite envious watching the Champions League when I was away, and I hope to be involved in it again on Wednesday," said Maloney.

I just knew I wanted to be there, to be involved. It was so frustrating for me
Shaun Maloney on watching Celtic in UEFA Champions League action last season

"It was difficult for me because I obviously had friends at Celtic and I wanted them to win. But I remember watching the Barcelona games last season and while I wouldn't say it was tough to watch, .

Amazing intensity
"The Champions League game I remember the most was the Manchester United home game two seasons ago, as the whole intensity of the match was amazing. Even though I was left out the starting side, which was disappointing, it was the whole night which got to me. We won and qualified for the last 16 for the first time. That stands out more than any other match. It's where I want to play again.

"Aalborg is going to be a good game. I don't know if it's the best fixture to start with but it's another massive night on which we will hopefully take three points. We've had this before in previous campaigns, where people expect us to win against the team from pot four (from the draw).

"We saw that with Copenhagen last season. We beat them at home but we also lost to them in Denmark, and we know this will be tough. Hopefully, we will take three points from what will be a massive game. But they are all tough. We'll have Villareal and Manchester United after this one. We obviously went in as underdogs the last time we played them, but you never know what can happen."

Celtic have no injury worries for the Group E clash at Celtic Park, where they have an enviable record of losing just one of their last nine Champions League ties. The Hoops have qualified for the last 16 in the last two seasons, winning all of their home games in the group stage, while losing every away match.

Aalborg, managed by Scot Bruce Rioch and making their first foray in the Champions League group stages since 1995, were beaten 2-0 at home by local rivals Aarhus on Saturday. In the other Group E match, English champions Manchester United host Villarreal at Old Trafford.