Sunday 25 March 2018

Bhoys get chance to hit top ahead of Old Firm clash

Roddy Forsyth

A fresh twist of fixture disruption has offered Celtic the chance to go into Sunday's Old Firm derby in pole position, despite dropping 12 points in their last nine games and coming within seconds of shedding more at home to St Johnstone at the weekend.

It should have been Rangers' turn to meet the Perth side tonight, but at lunchtime yesterday McDiarmid Park was declared unplayable, so if Celtic beat Motherwell at Parkhead tonight, Neil Lennon's players will leapfrog their city rivals by a point before they travel to Ibrox.

In their fifth consecutive home game, Celtic will have to do without Cha Du Ri and Ki Sung Yeung, both of whom scored in injury-time against St Johnstone, because the pair have flown out to join the South Korean squad for the Asian Cup.

In the meantime, Dwayne de Rosario, the Canadian midfielder, has joined Freddie Ljungberg for a few days of training with the Celtic squad at Lennoxtown.

Ljungberg's contract with Chicago Fire expires on Friday and, should he and Lennon come to an agreement, the Swede could feature against Rangers.

"He didn't train with our first team yesterday because they had a game the day before but, from what we saw, he looked very impressive and in good condition," said Lennon. "I think he might still have a lot to offer."

Lennon confirmed that De Rosario (32) would train with Celtic for a week, despite assertions by Toronto -- with whom he still has a two-year contract -- that the player remains integral to their plans.

"He is in today and is a similar player to Shaun Maloney," said the manager. "He is a skilful, sharp and intelligent player, so again there is an opportunity for us to look and see what he can offer us."

For tonight, Beram Kayal seems likely to replace Ki in midfield alongside Scott Brown. James Forrest has returned to training and Efraim Juarez has recovered from a virus.

Motherwell have a fully fit squad but cannot field Steve Jennings, who will serve the second game of a three-match suspension.

Irish Independent

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