Larsson closer to a dream farewell

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The Independent Football

There is one Swede for whom football could very well be coming home this summer. Not Sven, but Henrik. Celtic's talisman took another huge step on Thursday night towards a glittering farewell to the club he will leave in June.

Seven remarkable years there could well end in his own backyard. If the allure of the Uefa Cup final was not enough for Celtic, after last season's glorious failure, then the fact that it will be held in Gothenburg, just 100 kilo-metres up the coast from Larsson's home town of Helsingborg, is surely all the incentive he needs.

Larsson's two goals against FK Teplice in the third round, first leg, secured a 3-0 win that ought to guarantee the passage of last season's runners-up into the last 16. It may even earn the prolific Swedish striker - who hoisted his tally of European goals for Celtic to 34 - a back seat when Martin O'Neill and his players visit the Czech Republic for the return game on Wednesday.

The tiny spa town was, apparently, a favourite of Casanova. Like the famous lover, Larsson rarely allows himself a night off. Rangers may be waiting around the corner in an intriguing Scottish Cup quarter-final next Sunday, but the goalscorer and his manager refuse to recognise something called a day of rest.

For both men, a crowded fixture list is a reflection on a job well done. Today Livingston visit Parkhead as the Scottish Premier League leaders attempt to extend their sequence of victories to 25 games after creating a new record last Sunday. "I see Teplice have cancelled their weekend league game, so that shows you the expectation they must have had for the second leg," smiled O'Neill.

"We have a huge week coming up, with crucial games, but I will treat them individually because you have to do that - you can't take your eye off the ball next Wednesday with Rangers coming up, because then suddenly you are in trouble.

"We had 13 or 14 more games than usual last season because of the Uefa Cup run, but I'd take the same again this year as well, obviously. The Livingston game is vitally important to me. I cherish these records we have - unbeaten at home for so long [71 games] and the successive victories." However, while O'Neill's philosophy of "same again" is such a contrast with the Ranieri rotation, the Celtic manager knows he must find a way of squeezing John Hartson into his plans after his recovery from back injury.

Though O'Neill is loath to disturb the 49-goal partnership of Larsson and Sutton, Hartson should get the call in the Czech Republic. "We had him on the bench against Teplice, although the two strikers have been playing wonderfully well, but there is always the option of moving Chris back into midfield."

"It would be great to experience another Uefa Cup final," added midfielder Alan Thompson. "It would be even better if Gothenburg was Henrik's farewell. The rest of us, however, would like to stick around. We think we have a good thing going at Celtic."

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