Manager: Squad is boosted for domestic return
By: Laura Brannan on 14 Sep, 2012 14:58
THE Celtic squad have reassembled after the international break and with the exception of Georgios Samaras, all have returned fit and ready for the weekend´s domestic action.
Neil Lennon has also been boosted ahead of Saturday´s visit to Perth with the news Scott Brown and Charlie Mulgrew are available for selection again.
The Hoops take on St Johnstone in Saturday´s lunchtime kick-off and the manager is delighted to have two of his key players back in his plans again.
"I´m hoping Scott will be fit for both games," he said at the pre-match press conference. "We´ve tempered his training. He didn´t train yesterday but came through a light session today.
"He´ll definitely start tomorrow with a mind for Wednesday as well. We have to be guided by Scott and how he´s feeling on a day-to-day basis. We can´t overdo it with him at the minute but hopefully the inflammation he does have in that area will eventually settle down.
"Charlie is good," the manager added. "He trained yesterday and today so he´ll come into contention for tomorrow. I´m hoping Joe Ledley will be fit for Wednesday. Beram Kayal is not too far away either."
The manager is also pleased the new arrivals can now settle into the squad and he hopes to see some of them feature this week.
"It´s frustrating that we haven’t had any chance to work with the new boys at all, apart from Lassad who´s not been away on international duty," he said. "Efe Ambrose and Miku were away, and we only got Miku back today.
"Some of these players could be involved in that game, though. Efe is not here this weekend and it would be doubtful if he would play against Benfica because he has had no time or preparation with us whatsoever. But with regards the other guys then they have every chance of playing."
And even though Samaras is set to miss Wednesday evening´s UEFA Champions League opener, the manager is delighted the news of his elbow injury isn´t as bad as first feared.
"It´s just ligament damage," he explained. "We´re hoping he´ll be fit, at least, for the Spartak Moscow game. It´s a huge relief.
"Well, it´s a bitter blow to lose him for the first game because he´s been a huge performer for the team, particularly in Europe, he played his part more than anyone really to get us here. But it softens the blow knowing he won´t be out for long."
Before that match against Benfica becomes the main focus, though, Celtic have a difficult trip to Perth to contend with. The manager is pleased to be getting back to the competitive football again but is expecting improvements on their last league result – a 2-2 draw with Hibernian.
"We´re looking forward to playing again after a two-week break, and this is a huge week for us," he continued. "I think in terms of the Champions League the expectation isn’t great but we may surprise a few people in this group and that´s what we´re hoping to do.
"My eye is on St Johnstone tomorrow, though, and I want to play well and win the game. All the expectation was on qualifying for the Champions League, but it feels as if it´s really starting now.
"We´ve sort of tip-toed through the first four games, but now we have the transfer window out of the way we can really set fire to the season. Hopefully we can get the new boys settled as quickly as we can and get them bedded in. They´ll only enhance the squad from what I´ve seen."
Meanwhile, the manager´s final word went to the Hillsborough report which was released earlier this week, and he shared his sadness on the situation.
"It´s deeply disturbing," he said. "It´s 23 years too late for the families and the people associated with it. I think there is a huge justification and vindication for Liverpool Football Club, their supporters and certainly the families of the people who passed away.
"It´s very concerning the way it´s been handled by people in authority, I don’t think it´s run its mileage yet. There has to be justice and I think there has to be punishment for the people who deflected the blame elsewhere."