Burns battles to field a side

Rupert Metcalf on the weekend action in Scotland's Premier Division
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The Independent Online
It may be only the second week of the Scottish League season, but the Celtic manager, Tommy Burns, is already facing an injury crisis.

Burns has no fewer than 10 top players on the treatment table as he prepares for today's Premier Division meeting with Raith Rovers in Glasgow and next Tuesday's Uefa Cup return leg against the Slovakian side, Kosice. Also, there is no sign of an early end to the problems, with Paul McStay and Phil O'Donnell likely to be out for some time.

Celtic face Raith today with McStay, O'Donnell, Paolo Di Canio, Alan Stubbs and two squad men, Stuart Gray and Marc Anthony, all definitely out. Those on the doubtful list are Brian O'Neil, Jackie McNamara, Morten Wieghorst and Andreas Thom. Burns has been forced to put teenagers John Paul McBride, a 17-year-old midfielder, and 18-year-old defender Paddy Kelly on standby for places on the bench against Raith.

"We have a few problems and if the ones who are doubtful don't make it then I will have to call up the two young players," Burns said. "We are up against it, but I am sure the players that play will accept their responsibilities and I am looking for the supporters to really get behind us," Burns said. "If their favourites are not playing, they must back the ones who are out wearing the hoops."

Celtic have also announced that their scheduled friendly away to Sporting Lisbon in Portugal on 31 August has been postponed, as both clubs will have several players on international duty.

The champions, Rangers, head for the Kingdom of Fife to face Dunfermline Athletic. There will be a full house at East End Park to see Dunfermline's first game back in the top flight - last week's game against Hearts was postponed.

Dunfermline have waited four years for Premier Division football, and the First Division championship flag will be unfurled by their chairman, Roy Woodrow, before they meet Rangers.

"We had about 850 watching us play Stranraer in midweek," Dunfermline manager, Bert Paton, said yesterday. "Against Rangers there will be 18,300 inside East End Park, and that's what it's all about for me. There's nothing like a full house to inspire players."

Paul Gascoigne could be on the bench for Rangers. The England midfielder, who has had an Achilles injury, has not played since Euro 96, and he needs to prove his fitness of he is to have a chance of featuring in Glenn Hoddle's squad for next month's World Cup qualifier against Moldova.

Brian Laudrup, Joachim Bjorklund and Alex Cleland are also ready to return for Rangers, but their captain, Richard Gough, may be given time to recover from a head injury sustained against Clydebank during the week.

Barry Lavety is in line for his Premier Division debut for Hibernian at Dundee United, after scoring in the midweek Coca-Cola Cup win over Brechin following his move from St Mirren. Brian Welsh returns to Tannadice only 10 days after moving to Edinburgh while United look set to recall Owen Coyle, who came off the bench to score the winner against Stirling Albion on Tuesday.

Motherwell face a Fir Park test against their manager Alex McLeish's former club, Aberdeen. Mitchell van der Gaag could return after injury for the home side, but Chris McCart and John Hendry are ruled out. Aberdeen have their striker Billy Dodds back from suspension but Scott Booth and Stewart McKimmie are injured. Hearts entertain Kilmarnock at Tynecastle Park in their first Premier game of the season, with Jeremy Goss set to return and Darren Beckford likely to win a bench place.