Opportunities rise for Beattie

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The Independent Online

Celtic's Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink has not recovered sufficiently from an ankle injury sustained in last week's Old Firm win to feature for the Scottish Premier League champions at Falkirk tomorrow, which increases the chances that the long-term absentee, Craig Beattie, will get an opportunity instead.

"I don't know how long [Hesselink] will be out," Celtic's manager, Gordon Strachan, said. "I don't really see the injured players - they disappear to the treatment room and it is a place I never go in."

The most likely pairing up front will be Kenny Miller and Maciej Zurawski, the duo who started in the 1-0 Champions' League win over FC Copenhagen on Tuesday. But Beattie, 22, who has recently returned after a year's absence with a hamstring problem and came on as a sub for Zurawski in midweek, is likely to play some role. "It's been frustrating year, but now I'm back fit and I'm delighted," Beattie said. "I would like to think there is a place for me but it's up to me. I've got to go and prove it."

Frustrating would be an understatement to describe the ordeal of another young Celtic player, John Kennedy, 23, whose knee was shattered on his Scotland debut in March 2004. He has not played since, but after four operations and several setbacks, he could return to reserve action next week.

"We'll let John decide because he's been out a long time," Strachan said. "It's satisfying for me [that he's about to come back] but huge for him."

Hearts and Rangers, second and third this morning, also play tomorrow, after an aggregate defeat and a win respectively in the Uefa Cup on Thursday. Hearts host Dundee United, while Rangers have the tougher assignment, at home against an in-form Aberdeen. Paul Le Guen cautioned against inflated expectations on the back of Thursday's 2-0 win over Molde.

"We must still be aware that there is a long way to go," he said. "We must improve. I am happy with [Uefa Cup group-stage] qualification but we must keep in mind that we must carry on working."

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