Manager: Full focus on Saturday
By: Mark Henderson on 17 Aug, 2012 15:08
NEIL Lennon will be without number of key personnel for Celtic´s trip to Ross County on Saturday but he remains confident of selecting a team that´s capable of earning victory in the Highlands.
Celtic´s crippling injury list means Scott Brown, Anthony Stokes, James Forrest, Paddy McCourt, Dylan McGeouch, Daryl Murphy, Filip Twardzik and Rabiu Ibrahim will miss the game against the Staggies. Gary Hooper remains a doubt.
With the crucial UEFA Champions League play-off, first-leg against Helsingborgs on Tuesday, a crowded treatment table, particularly among the attacking cohort, is certainly a concern.
However, the manager is hopeful that the picture will look decidedly rosier by the time that game comes around..
In any event, his full focus is on following up the opening day win over Aberdeen with another three points against the Dingwall side.
"I have about 11 out - Filip Twardzik, Dylan, Murphy, Stokes, Bangura, Ibrahim, McCourt, Brown, Forrest and Hooper is a doubt as well," said the Irishman.
"It´s a huge concern regarding Tuesday as well but it´s a big game tomorrow. We are not looking too far ahead, and Saturday´s game is one I want to win.
"Ross County are unbeaten in 36 and that´s an impressive record at any level. We have started the season very well but I have three of my strikers out and that´s a concern.
"Stokesy has a bit of bone bruising in the ankle and you can never put a length of time on that. Murph has a hamstring and Mo is a thigh. They are not long-term injuries but we could be doing with thedr pleyers at the minute.
"We had glut of injuries around October time and these have come a bit early this year. But I´m not overly concerned and hoping that the majority of those boys who I have mentioned will train on Sunday, and we are hoping to have a bigger and more vibrant squad for game on Tuesday.
"For tomorrow we might draft in a couple of younger ones but we will still have a strong team going out there."
Celtic know they can´t take the threat of the SPL newcomers lightly having been on the receiving end of a 2-0 shock defeat in the Scottish Cup semi-final in 2010.
The sides also met at Victoria Park last season in the League Cup with the Hoops reversing that scoreline in a hard-fought contest to progress in the competition. They are a team that the Hoops boss has plenty of admiration for.
"We had the semi-final a couple of years ago and we played them in Dingwall last year," he said. "I know the club very well. There are good people there. It´s well run and no surprise that they got promoted last year.
"They have some good individual players, and like a lot of provincial teams they have great spirit. They are a community club as well and the people take a lot of pride in what they do.
"It´s a great story but we want to burst their bubble tomorrow. We want to go there and win and go into Tuesday in a psychologically in a good state."
The manager was pleased to see all his stars return unscathed from international duty. On the other hand, he admitted to being somewhat surprised at Fraser Forster´s continued failure to receive a call-up to the England squad.
"I´m frustrated for him," said the Irishman. "I think he´s developing into a top-class goalkeeper.
"I don´t think England have a plethora of goalkeepers to choose from, and I do feel he´s good enough to make the England squad.
"I think he´s more than good enough to play and he´s proven that over the last couple of years. He´s played in huge games already and shown the character to play in those games, and certainly the qualities. We just have to keep him going.
"We have a few big weeks coming up, and if we can get through into the Champions League group stages his exposure will spread throughout Europe and will give him a great platform to hopefully make that breakthrough."