Vennegoor a doubt as Celtic seek first victory

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Celtic's Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink will be given "every chance to recover" from an ankle injury sustained in Saturday's Old Firm derby win before Gordon Strachan names his team to face FC Copenhagen tonight at Parkhead.

"I'd like him to play because it's a winning side at the moment," Strachan said of the 27-year-old Dutchman, whose foot was "a bit sore and puffy" yesterday. "If I was desperate, I would make him play and put pressure on him - but there is no pressure whatsoever. We'd lose a good player but we'll have another one coming in."

The obvious standby option would be to partner Kenny Miller with Maciej Zurawski in a match that Celtic need to win to be sure of climbing from the bottom of Group F in the Champions' League. They lost 3-2 at Old Trafford in their opener, while Copenhagen were held 0-0 at home by Benfica.

Celtic have won seven and lost only one of nine Champions' League home games in three campaigns since2001, but they have never progressed beyond this phase. Copenhagen, taking their bow in the competition proper, are wooden spoon favourites in the group but have a toughness and a few familiar faces who might cause problems.

Marcus Allback, once of Aston Villa and also the Swedish international striking partner of the Celtic hero Henrik Larsson, is back from suspension. Tobias Linderoth, a former midfield team-mate of Celtic's Thomas Gravesen at Everton, has rediscovered his form since moving to Copenhagen in 2004. He was the Danish league's Player of the Year in 2005.

The visitors' manager is also a former Premiership player. Stale Solbakken played for Wimbledon in England's top flight in a successful battle to avoid relegation in 1997-98. His playing days ended with a more significant success: recovery from a heart attack that left him clinically dead for seven minutes. That was as an FC Copenhagen player, aged 33, in 2001, since when he has had a pacemaker fitted and concentrated solely on coaching.

His first managerial job was in his native Norway, with Hamarkameratene (Ham-Kam), who he led to the second-tier title and then fifth place in Norway's elite league before his current employers hired him in December last year. His side reached these group stages after beating Ajax in qualifying.

Celtic are favourites but Strachan is cautious. "People who know football, know about Copenhagen," he said. "Benfica and Ajax are big names, no doubt about it, and they haven't beaten Copenhagen. They won't be underdogs to us."

Celtic (probable) (4-4-2): Boruc; Telfer, Caldwell, McManus, Naylor; Nakamura, Gravesen, Lennon, McGeady; Vennegoor of Hesselink, Miller.

FC Copenhagen (probable) (4-4-2): Christiansen; Jacobsen, Hangeland, Gravgaard, Bergdolmo; Silberbauer, Norregaard, Linderoth, Hutchinson; Berglund, Allback.

Referee: F Mayer (Germany).

Comments