Sport Soccer

Monday 18 December 2017

Celtic gear up for Champions League with Inter clash

Ronnie Esplin

CELTIC will have their final Champions League dress rehearsal in Saturday's home friendly against Inter Milan.

Grant Holt's late strike gave Norwich a narrow victory over the Hoops in their challenge match at Parkhead last night and now Neil Lennon's side only have the game against the Italian giants to get it right before the visit of HJK Helsinki in the first leg of the Champions League third qualifying round next Wednesday night.

Missing altogether from the squad which faced the Canaries were Scott Brown, Charlie Mulgrew and Anthony Stokes while assistant Johan Mjallby, in the absence of Lennon who was in Iceland watching HJK Helsinki beat KR Reykjavik 2-1 to go through 9-1 on aggregate, started with a makeshift team and used his whole bench over the 90 minutes.

The former Celtic defender acknowledged afterwards that time is running out before the visit of the Finnish side.

He said: "Up until now it the focus has been on fitness to make them sharp and now we can be a bit more tactical.

"We have to wait to see who is fresh and who is not but we definitely aim to go for a strong side on Saturday and probably those who start the game will be selected for the Helsinki game."

Celtic passed up on several chances before the Norwich captain pounced near the end to sink the Parkhead side who have scored just two goals in five pre-season games.

Asked whether the Scottish champions need to be more clinical next week, Mjallby said: "Definitely. Whatever you say, there are no easy games in Europe nowadays and every team is well organised and usually Scandinavian teams and Finnish teams are physically very strong.

"When you create chances, especially at home, you need to take them.

"Obviously we start at home and we want to score a few goals to have a wee bit of a comfort zone before we go over there.

"The good thing last night was that we created a few chances against good opposition."

Defender Kelvin Wilson came off in the first half with shin splints and keeper Lukasz Zaluska was replaced by Fraser Forster just before the break after sustaining a cut eye.

Mjallby said: "Kelvin Wilson has shin splints, I don't know how bad it is, I think he is going to go for a scan.

"It was just a cut for Lukasz so it is probably going to be just a few stitches, he's a strong boy so he should be back training today."

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