Monday, January 31, 2011

Defensive problems mount for Celtic

Celtic have a defensive crisis as they aim to move eight points clear at the top of the Scottish Premier League tomorrow when they face Aberdeen at Pittodrie for their third meeting in nine days.
The Hoops have triumphed in the two previous meetings, the latest a 4-1 thrashing at Hampden Park in their League Cup semi-final clash last Saturday. Neil Lennon's side had only one recognised centre-half for the match at the national stadium with injuries to Glenn Loovens and Daniel Majstorovic, and Jos Hooiveld's loan deal to Copenhagen, leaving just Thomas Rogne.
But Celtic were dealt another blow when the 20-year-old Norwegian limped out of the match with a calf strain and could struggle to make the trip to Pittodrie. That could leave manager Lennon with a back four made up entirely of full-backs with Charlie Mulgrew and Mark Wilson asked to move into the middle. But Rogne is confident whoever plays will be capable of keeping up Celtic's record of having the meanest defence in the SPL.
"Everyone talks about our situation in defence and before the Hearts game last week we were told that we had one central defender and that was me, but in the last two games Charlie has been the best player in our defence," the centre-half said.
Of course I want to be injury-free and play myself but if I can't play on Tuesday I know the boys will step up and do a brilliant job. There will be no problem.
Thomas Rogne, Celtic defender
"We have Wilson as well who can play centre-half brilliantly, so it's not an issue. Of course I want to be injury-free and play myself but if I can't play on Tuesday I know the boys will step up and do a brilliant job. There will be no problem."
Celtic will be boosted by the return of right-back Cha Du-Ri and midfielder Ki Sung-Yeung from international duty with Korea Republic in the AFC Asian Cup but Shaun Maloney and James Forrest will miss out through injury. A win for the Hoops would take them eight points clear at the top of the table before second-placed Rangers take on Hearts, who sit in third.
The Gers will be looking for revenge at Ibrox after their 1-0 defeat by the Jambos at Tynecastle ten days ago. Jim Jefferies' side are just two points behind Rangers and would leapfrog their hosts into second spot with a win. Walter Smith's side have been boosted by the signing of Northern Ireland international David Healy on loan from Sunderland.
And fellow forward Steven Naismith believes his arrival should give everyone at Ibrox a boost after losing Kenny Miller in the transfer window and missing out on Kris Commons who opted instead to join Celtic. "He's an experienced striker who has a great scoring record, especially at international level. He'll be a good addition," Naismith said. "He'll be hungry for goals here and I'm sure David will be hungrier than most to do well."
Elsewhere, struggling Hibernian and St Mirren face each other at Easter Road. Hibs, who sit second-bottom and have yet to score in 2011 are aiming to stop a run of five straight defeats. Motherwell face a tough task as they look to bounce back from their League Cup semi-final defeat to Rangers when fourth-placed Kilmarnock visit Fir Par

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