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Celtic's midweek draw away to Ajax timely confidence booster

Celtic assistant John Collins, right, says the Bhoys have been encouraged by their midweek 2-2 draw away to Ajax in the Europa League
Ronnie Esplin

Ladbrokes Premiership: Celtic v Dundee (tomorrow, 3pm)

Assistant boss John Collins believes Celtic’s 2-2 draw against Ajax in Amsterdam on Thursday night has done “wonders” for the players’ confidence.

The Hoops went into their Europa League Group A opener against the Dutch side looking fragile after losing their lead at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership to Aberdeen and under some pressure having dropped out of the Champions League at the play-off stage against Malmo.

However, Ronny Deila’s men put in an assured display in the Amsterdam ArenA, leading 2-1 with goals from midfielder Nir Bitton and right-back Mikael Lustig before Emilio Izaguirre was sent off for picking up the second of two yellow cards and Ajax substitute Lasse Schone equalised.

Ahead of the home league game against Dundee tomorrow, Collins expressed his delight at getting back on track.

The former Celtic midfielder said: “I was very happy. I thought we bounced back well.

“It does wonders, a good performance and good result.

“That’s what brings back the confidence.

“I think maybe a little bit of confidence had dropped a little bit.

“But as the game went on I think you could see the confidence coming back into the players and there were a lot of very good performances against a very good team.

“We got the balance right defensively and as the game went on I thought we grew into it, our passing got better and we created chances away from home. Overall, very pleased.

“But I don’t think we were in that big of a slump. Okay we lost the game last week but a few weeks ago we were playing terrific (football).

“We had a little dip and we want to follow last night’s performance up with another good performance on Sunday.”

Collins was further encouraged by the performance of Kris Commons.

The midfielder celebrated his first start in Europe this season by setting up Bitton for his eighth minute goal before crossing for Lustig to head the visitors back in front, after Viktor Fischer had levelled.

The former Hibs boss said: “Kris came into the team and was terrific. He did his defensive duties very well and again had the magic in and around the opponents’ box.

“He came up with the goods, an excellent pass for the first goal and deliveries at set-pieces was 10 out of 10. He was a big performer for us.

“Everyone knows he missed the pre-season with his (toe) injury.

“So you can’t play if you are not fit and he wasn’t fit at the start of the season.

“But you can see now he is getting his sharpness and his touch is back. That’s good news for us.

“In and around the opponent’s box there’s nobody more dangerous. He can shoot with both feet, he can play the killer passes. We know what Kris can do when he is fit.”

Collins brushed off the comments of Ajax coach and former Rangers player, Frank de Boer, who was quoted as saying that Celtic “parked two buses”.

He said: “Obviously he would want us to be open and allow space for his good players to have easy movement and easy passes.

“We didn’t do what he wanted so he describes it as parking the bus.

“But I thought there were periods in the game where we opened up and kept the ball very well and we created chances. You don’t create chances if you park the bus for 90 minutes.”

 

 

(all games 3pm unless stated)

TODAY

Dundee United (11) v Inverness (9)

Dundee United striker Billy McKay (ankle) is a doubt while Paul Dixon (hernia) and Chris Erskine (pelvis) remain on the sidelines after being told they need surgery. Midfielder Paul Paton (knee) is still out but forward Mario Bilate (hamstring) is close to fitness.

Inverness forward Andrea Mutombo serves the final game of his two-match ban. Aaron Doran (knee), Jordan Roberts (groin), Gary Warren (broken leg) and Dean Brill (knee) are also still missing for John Hughes’ side. But skipper Richie Foran is hoping to make his first start in 18 months after stepping up his recovery from a serious knee injury.

Last season: Inverness 3 Dundee Utd 0, Inverness CT 2 Dundee Utd 1, Dundee Utd 1 Inverness CT 1, Inverness CT 1 Dundee Utd 0

Last five league matches: Dundee Utd D L L L L; Inverness D L L D W

Top scorers (all competitions): Blair Spittal (Dundee Utd) 2; Ryan Christie (Inverness) 2

Match odds: H 6-5 A 15-8 D 23-10

Referee: Kevin Clancy

 

Hamilton (6) v Motherwell (8)

Hamilton have no fresh injury concerns. Darian MacKinnon was forced out of the midweek defeat to Aberdeen with a knock and Carlton Morris missed the clash at Pittodrie, but both are expected to be fit for the visit of Well. Chris Turner remains on the sidelines for Accies with a knee problem.

New goalkeeper Craig Samson is expected to be added to the Motherwell squad after signing until the end of the season earlier in the week. Striker Wes Fletcher is still sidelined with an ankle injury but is progressing well and could return to action in the next week or so. Midfielder Stephen Pearson also remains out with a knee injury and should make a comeback after the international break, if not before.

Last season: Hamilton 2 Motherwell 0, Motherwell 4 Hamilton 0, Hamilton 5 Motherwell 0, Motherwell 0 Hamilton 4

Last five league matches: Hamilton W W W L L; Motherwell L L L W D

Top scorers (all competitions): Ali Crawford, Christian Nade, Carlton Morris & Lucas Tagliapietra (Hamilton) 2; Louis Moult (Motherwell) 4

Match odds: H 19-20 A 23-10 D 5-2

Referee: Craig Thomson

 

Kilmarnock (10) v St Johnstone (7)

Conrad Balatoni could make his Kilmarnock debut. The former Partick defender played 90 minutes for the under-20s in midweek after signing before last weekend’s win against Dundee United. Scott Robinson returned to action at Tannadice, leaving Dale Carrick (hamstring), Mark Connolly (knee) and Chris Johnston (knee) as Gary Locke’s only absentees.

In-form St Johnstone striker Steven MacLean will not be risked on the artificial surface at Rugby Park, with manager Tommy Wright determined to protect his striker’s knee on the advice of surgeons. Central defender Steven Anderson may be listed among the substitutes after recovering from surgery to a fractured eye socket. Midfielder Murray Davidson has recovered from a cut mouth which required five stitches in the game against Hamilton last weekend.

Last season: St Johnstone 0 Kilmarnock 0, Kilmarnock 0 St Johnstone 1, St Johnstone 1 Kilmarnock 2

Last five league matches: Kilmarnock D D L L W; St Johnstone D L W L W

Top scorers (all competitions): Kallum Higginbotham (Kilmarnock) 3; Steven MacLean (St Johnstone) 6

Match odds: H 21-10 A 5-4 D 12-5

Referee: William Collum

 

Ross County (4) v Partick (12)

Craig Curran will miss out for Ross County as he continues to deal with a concussion. The striker suffered a head knock against Kilmarnock on August 22 and has featured just once since due to dizzy spells. Midfielder Rocco Quinn pulled up with a hamstring strain last week against Motherwell but boss Jim McIntyre would only confirm he is monitoring a “a couple of knocks” ahead of the Jags’ visit to Dingwall.

Partick boss Alan Archibald has no fresh injury worries but the trip to the Highlands is likely to come too soon for Gary Fraser (knock) and Mathias Pogba (hamstring). Long-term casualty Christie Elliott remains out of action with a spinal injury.

Last season: Ross County 1 Partick 2, Ross County 1 Partick 0, Partick 1 Ross County 3, Partick 4 Ross County 0

Last five league matches: Ross County D L W W D; Partick D D L L L

Top scorers (all competitions): Liam Boyce (Ross County) 5; Kris Doolan (Partick) 2

Match odds: H 5-6 A 11-4 D 5-2

Referee: Greg Aitken

 

TOMORROW

Celtic (2) v Dundee (5)

Midfielder Stefan Johansen hopes to shrug off a tightness in his thigh. Defender Charlie Mulgrew’s thigh injury which kept him out of the Hoops’ 2-2 Europa League draw against Ajax in Amsterdam on Thursday night is not as bad as feared but he is likely to be out for another few weeks. Stuart Armstrong (back) and fellow midfielder Scott Allan (knock) are still out.

Dundee defender James McPake is available for the trip to Celtic Park. The Dens Park skipper has shaken off the hip injury that forced him off against Partick last weekend. Midfielder Paul McGowan (ankle) remains out and defender Kosta Gadzhalov (shoulder) has joined him on the sidelines.

Last season: Celtic 5 Dundee 0, Dundee 1 Celtic 2, Celtic 2 Dundee 1, Dundee 1 Celtic 1

Last five league matches: Celtic D W W W L; Dundee D W L D W

Top scorers (all competitions): Leigh Griffiths (Celtic) 9; Greg Stewart & Kane Hemmings (Dundee) 4

Match odds: H 2-9 A 10-1 D 9-2

Referee: Steven McLean

 

Hearts (3) v Aberdeen (1)

(2.15pm, live on Sky Sports 5)

Hearts hope Morgaro Gomis will be back in Edinburgh in time to face Aberdeen. The French midfielder missed last week’s 2-0 defeat to Inverness after returning to Paris following a family bereavement but should make this weekend’s Dons clash. Miguel Pallardo (Achilles) and Blazej Augustyn (hernia) have both returned to full fitness, while striker Soufian El Hassnaoui (knee) could make his comeback within the next fortnight.

Aberdeen winger Jonny Hayes begins a two-match ban, having failed in his appeal after being sent off against Celtic on Saturday. Defender Mark Reynolds (shoulder) remains out.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

Last five league matches: Hearts W W W L L; Aberdeen W W W W W

Top scorers (all competitions): Juanma Delgado & Osman Sow (Hearts) 4; Adam Rooney (Aberdeen) 6

Match odds: H 13-5 A 1-1 D 11-5

Referee: Bobby Madden

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