Callum McGregor is convinced Celtic can land a knock-out blow on Valencia as they won’t be running scared from the Spaniards.

The Parkhead playmaker admitted the Hoops are in for a tough scrap against the La Liga heavyweights as they bid to win a European tie after Christmas for the first time in 15 years.

But McGregor insisted Celts are busting with confidence after smashing up Scottish rivals since the winter break and they can crack the continent in Thursday’s Europa League last 32 showdown.

He said: “You know Spanish clubs will play football and they’ll always really test you. They’ve come into a good bit of form recently but we’ve got to fancy our chances at Celtic Park.

Callum McGregor braces himself against the weather

“Our mindset has to be that we play without fear and just go out there and see what we can do.

“It would represent progression for us season after season in Europe.

“These European competitions are really tough, especially when you see the money that clubs are throwing about.

“Then you look at the draw for this round and see the quality of the teams who are in it. The standard is getting higher all the time and you have to go back to 2004 to find the last time we managed to win a knock-out tie.

“We know it’s not going to be easy but we have to go into it in a positive frame of mind.”

Celtic's Callum McGregor celebrates scoring his side's first goal
 

McGregor reckons Celtic have the advantage of playing the first leg in Glasgow and he’s looking to take a lead to Spain next week.

The midfielder is hoping the lessons have been learned from last season when the Hoops were ahead against Zenit St Petersburg after 90 minutes only to run aground in the return in Russia.

McGregor said: “I think being at home first probably helps us slightly. There’s a feelgood factor about Celtic Park and everybody will be coming to this big European night urging us on to get a result, similar to last season against Zenit when we got the win.

“Everyone is expecting the best from us, anticipating that we’ll turn in a good performance. I reckon that if we can give a good account of ourselves on Thursday, people will be happy with that.”

McGregor will take inspiration from Celtic’s group stage victory against German big guns RB Leipzig before Christmas when the Parkhead disco lights were unveiled.

The Scotland star admitted the Scottish champs will need to shine on the big stage again with Valencia in town.

McGregor said: “I think that the night we beat RB Leipzig provided the blueprint for us.

“If we can turn in a similar display against Valencia, we should be all right. It’s about us being upbeat and wanting to push ourselves – then we’ll see what happens.

“I watch the bigger games involving Barcelona and Real Madrid but you realise that foreign opponents will be at a high level technically so we pretty much know what we’ll be coming up against.

Callum McGregor, James Forrest, Scott Bain and Kristoffer Ajer celebrate at full time

“That will help us, too, in that we’re moving up in class and the speed of thought has to improve and you also need to move the ball quicker. Being in that type of environment makes you a better player.

“You could probably say that this is a harder draw than last year’s but, then again, it’s good to test yourself.

“Having so many young Scottish players in the side, coming up against such strong opposition can only be a good thing for us.

“You want to test yourself against the best and, by doing that, you should come out the other side as a better footballer.”

Celtic’s injury woes are easing with Oli Burke winning his fitness battle after suffering an ankle knock in Sunday’s Scottish Cup win against St Johnstone.

Oliver Burke with Brendan Rodgers after going off injured

Emilio Izaguirre remains a doubt, with Kieran Tierney and Filip Benkovic expected to be absent.

The Hoops have maintained the domestic push despite key players missing and McGregor insisted the side will still have the tools to get a result on Thursday.

He said: “I think we’re going well, to be fair. We’ve been excellent since we returned from the winter break, winning every game and not conceding a goal.

“Everything is going well and the new boys who have come in have made a contribution.

“There are a lot of players who’d be considered automatic starters who can’t be in the team at the moment but, injuries apart, that’s a tribute to the strength of our squad and the guys who’ve come in, who’ve been desperate to do well; they’ve maintained our standards.”