Strachan to ring changes after injury to Nakamura

Celtic midfielder ruled out of cup match as McGeady hopes for return to favour
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The Independent Online

Shunsuke Nakamura looks set to be rested for Celtic's Scottish Cup game with Dundee on Saturday after suffering a groin injury. The Japanese midfielder sustained the problem in last weekend's 2-2 Clydesdale Bank Premier League draw against Dundee United and has been removed from first-team training this week.

Nakamura, 30, is hoping to rejoin his team-mates today and is targeting the following weekend's SPL trip to Aberdeen. He said yesterday: "The pain I felt at the weekend when I had to come off during the game against Dundee United is much better, and I'll perhaps be able to train again with the team tomorrow. I am preparing for the game against Aberdeen, but I've been told the injury is in an unusual place and that there is the possibility it may come back if not treated properly."

The Celtic manager, Gordon Strachan, has hinted that he may make changes for the visit of Dundee, and that could mean a return for Aiden McGeady. The Republic of Ireland midfielder is hoping to draw a line under his dressing-room row with Strachan last month after deciding not to appeal against the punishment imposed on him.

Strachan also wants to use Saturday's game to ease the striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and midfielder Marc Crosas back into first-team action following their injury lay-offs. "It would be nice for Jan and Marc to get some games," Strachan said. "On Monday, we had a 70-minute bounce game for the players who didn't start on Saturday. That was just to try to get them back to match fitness as soon as possible. Marc and Jan have been two big performers for us and it will be good to get them back playing."

The right-back Jean-Joel Perrier-Doumbe hopes some of Celtic's fringe men are also given the nod this weekend. "I have six months left on my contract and my aim is to fight my way into the first team and play as much as possible," he said. "I feel a lot fitter and I've played a few games for the reserves."

Paul Caddis admits he is facing a vital few weeks in his Celtic career as he aims to step in for the injured Mark Wilson and Andreas Hinkel. With Hinkel struggling with a rib problem, Caddis hopes to make only his second start of the season against Dundee. Caddis has started only cup games for Celtic, although one game came against Barcelona in the Champions League. So the 20-year-old is determined to stake his claim for a regular place and convince the manager he need not look outside the club for back-up during the transfer window.

"I'm sure the manager knows I'm ready to step in whenever he needs me," Caddis said. "I'm obviously sorry to hear that Mark got injured, but it's maybe the chance that some of the younger boys are needing. It could be important for me to step in and I'm ready to do it. With Mark being injured and Andy Hinkel being injured just now, hopefully he sticks by me and puts me in. At a club like Celtic, when you are on the fringes you have always got to be ready to step in, because the chance can come at any time."

Caddis is just one of the fringe players desperate to prove the absences need not have an effect. "We've got a very good squad," Caddis said. "I know the manager would like to have a consistent team but we have got good players around the fringes who are ready to step in. Koki Mizuno has stepped in recently and done very well.

"The squad we have got just now is really strong. Last season, we won the league and there have not been many changes, so I don't think the boys are too worried about bringing anyone else in. If the manager does bring anyone else in, it's going to be for the benefit of the team."

While Caddis is focusing on Saturday's tie, he turned his mind to the other cup competition yesterday when he was at Hampden to promote Co-operative Insurance's renewed sponsorship deal for the League Cup, in which Celtic play Dundee United in the semi-final later this month.

"Picking up as much silverware in a season is important," Caddis said. "There is still a lot for us to do in the semi-final against Dundee United. Dundee United have played the Old Firm four times this season and it's been four draws, so I think that speaks for itself."

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Shunsuke Nakamura has scored 30 goals in 145 appearances for Celtic after signing from Reggina in 2005.

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