Kennedy begins long path to recovery after costly Romanian tackle

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The Independent Football

The Celtic defender John Kennedy will go under the knife today as the process to rebuild his shattered knee begins.

The 20-year-old has spent the last few days in the United States being assessed by Dr Richard Steadman and will undergo surgery in Colorado this afternoon.

The youngster will then embark on a lengthy rehabilitation process but reports so far suggest Kennedy's progress is going well. He was just starting to make his breakthrough at Celtic with a string of impressive performances when his season was brought to an end.

Just 14 minutes into his Scotland debut, Kennedy was the victim of a crunching tackle from Romania and Wolves striker Vio Ganea which left him facing a year on the sidelines.

Meanwhile, the Celtic manager, Martin O'Neill, is not underestimating the challenge of Villarreal in tomorrow night's Uefa Cup quarter-final.

The Hoops take on the Liga side in the first leg at Parkhead just three days before their Scottish Cup semi-final against Livingston.

Villarreal managed to match Celtic's impressive feat of holding Barcelona in the Nou Camp when the mid-table side earned a goalless draw against the Catalan giants on Sunday night.

O'Neill said: "We have just six days in which we will be playing three very difficult games so it is another massive week for us. I watched Villarreal's game against Barcelona on Sunday night and it tells you everything about them.

"They are a very good side with a number of top quality players, especially Roman Riquelme. It will be difficult for us, absolutely no doubt about that. We are in the last eight of the Uefa Cup which is great but these Villarreal matches will be huge for us."

O'Neill knows their next three games will go a long way to deciding how well stocked the Celtic trophy room will be at the end of the season. But he refused to complain about playing so many important fixtures in such a short space of time.

He added: "This is what we aim for every single season and there is no point complaining about a fixture list being so crowded because you want to be in as many competitions as you can be. The semi-final of the Cup is something that we want to win but I'll wait and see how we come out of Thursday night.

"We barely have time to breathe again after Thursday's match before we play Livingston at Hampden and then we're back out to Spain for the second leg. It's three big games for us and we need to be ready for them."

Meanwhile, Celtic's Momo Sylla is hoping for a surprise ticket to the English Premiership next season.

The Ivory Coast winger was watched by both promotion-bound Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion while playing in the reserves this week - and he may be on his way in the summer.

The Norwich city manager, Nigel Worthington, is looking for more pace in his side and Sylla's transfer from Celtic comes at a bargain price.

The West Brom manager, Gary Megson, is in the same boat and both clubs have been offered the chance to snatch Sylla by his advisers. Sylla has only had a few chances to shine in the first team for the Bhoys since O'Neill snapped him up from St Johnstone two seasons ago.

Celtic expect the tie against Villarreal to be a sell-out but have informed supporters that remaining tickets will be on sale leading up to kick-off.