O'Neill to gamble on Sutton's fitness

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The Independent Football

The Celtic manager, Martin O'Neill, is ready to take one of the biggest gambles of his career in Spain tonight by picking Chris Sutton against Villarreal in the second leg of the Uefa Cup quarter-final.

The Celtic manager, Martin O'Neill, is ready to take one of the biggest gambles of his career in Spain tonight by picking Chris Sutton against Villarreal in the second leg of the Uefa Cup quarter-final.

Villarreal took the initiative with the 1-1 draw at Parkhead last week and O'Neill is desperate for Sutton to play. The striker hobbled off after scoring two goals in Celtic's Scottish Cup semi-final victory over Livingston, when his long-standing groin problem flared up again.

Sutton declared himself fit in the aftermath of that game and his manager is ready to take a risk on him in Spain.

"He couldn't train today and I will leave that until the last possible minute," O'Neill said yesterday. "But I'm sure if Chris will want to deal himself in, he will certainly start the game.

"It is hard to say at the minute what his chances are but he wants to try and that will be good enough for us."

O'Neill has, however, dashed hopes of a return for John Hartson before the end of the season, although the Welsh international striker has responded well to treatment on a back problem.

David Marshall, the Celtic goalkeeper, is expecting to have another eventful game on his return to Spain. The 19-year-old earned plaudits for his performance in the Uefa Cup fourth-round first leg against Barcelona at the Nou Camp with a string of great saves when he replaced the suspended Rob Douglas.

Marshall has kept the No 1 jersey and will line up against Villarreal in the quarter-final second leg, with the scores 1-1 on aggregate.

"I think I'll be busy," he said. "I am confident we can win it, though. Villarreal are a good side, we knew that before the first leg, but we created a lot of chances in the second half of the game at Parkhead."

The Villarreal coach, Francisco Garcia, who is known as "Paquito", should be able to call on a full squad, as the wingers Jose Mari (back) and Antonio Guayre (torn muscle) have both recovered from their injuries.

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