Football: Stubbs fears change of mood

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ALAN STUBBS admits Celtic's buoyancy has deflated after the team lost their way at Dundee United last weekend, and fears their season could head in the wrong direction after a summer of optimism.

The hype which followed John Barnes and Kenny Dalglish's Parkhead arrival soon enveloped the players who started the season with three victories and 14 goals without response. Last week, however, saw a 2-1 loss at Tannadice and Stubbs, left out the side for that setback, suspects there will be a marked change of mood when Celtic travel to Dundee today.

A loss at Dens Park could leave Celtic adrift of Rangers before the season has found any momentum leaving Stubbs, who is desperate to return to the fold, eager to return and resume winning ways. The former Bolton defender said: "The Dundee United result was a disappointment after the way we had played before then, we were on a real high but now it's gone a bit flat really.

"There will be a different attitude towards the Dundee game as we'll be going into it now starting from scratch. The way we played at Tannadice was a major disappointment as, compared to the first two games, we didn't seem to create many good chances.

"We performed only in fits and starts," Stubbs added. "We didn't seem to get forward enough and in that sense let United off the hook."

Celtic have no major injury concerns at Dundee, with only the long-term victim Marc Rieper (toe) missing. Craig Burley returns to the squad and will compete for a starting place with the Bulgarian youngster Stilian Petrov.

The striker James Grady returns to the fold for Dundee after a recent virus, while the youngster Lee Wilkie is introduced to the squad. Willie Falconer collected a slight knock in midweek but is expected to play against the Glasgow side.

The French goalkeeper Lionel Charbonnier may be considered by Rangers at home to Dundee United after a 10-month absence because of a knee injury. Manager Dick Advocaat will make a late decision but otherwise the squad is unchanged following last week's 4-1 thrashing of Motherwell.

Billy Dodds (muscle strain) and Siggi Jonsson (ankle) each face fitness tests and are expected to be included in the Dundee United squad, but the defender Maurice Malpas is ruled out with a calf problem.

Kilmarnock, who entertain Motherwell, are optimistic of the Scotland international Ian Durrant returning from injury to bolster their midfield, but their first-choice goalkeeper Gordon Marshall is still missing with a groin strain.

Motherwell welcome back Lee McCulloch from suspension after the striker missed the midweek CIS Insurance Cup win against Raith Rovers, while Simo Valakari returns from international duty.

St Johnstone, who play host to Hibernian, may recall Allan Preston, who is nearing a return after playing for their Under-21 side in the week. Both Alan Kernaghan and George O'Boyle are still absent, but the Saints may offer new signing Kevin Thomas a debut.

Hibernian are expected to offer a debut to their new recruit Grant Brebner, who arrived for pounds 400,000 from Reading this week, while Franck Sauzee is a doubt with a muscle strain.

Aberdeen visit Hearts tomorrow with Eoin Jess pressing hard for a recall to the Dons' midfield, after being dropped this week.