Unorthodox Celtic thrill Nakamura

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The Independent Football

Shunsuke Nakamura, the Celtic midfielder, believes the wide range of attacking options available to the club's manager, Gordon Strachan, has been the key to their impressive start to the season.

Celtic moved eight points clear of Hearts at the top of the Scottish Premier League with a 2-1 win over Motherwell on Saturday and, with rivals Rangers a further two points behind, many pundits believe the title race is over. The Parkhead side are also on course to qualify for the Champions' League knockout stages for the first time.

Following their 3-0 victory over Benfica last week Celtic are now in second place behind Manchester United in Group F having gained six points from three games.

Nakamura has been instrumental in the SPL champions' success so far this season and Strachan points out that the Japan international had been involved in eight of the last nine Celtic goals against Dundee United, Benfica and Motherwell.

However, Nakamura told the Celtic club website that opponents have struggled to cope with the different challenges that his team-mates provide going forward. The 28-year-old said: "It is a privilege to work with so many talented players and to play in a team like this. We've got a strong squad at Celtic with so many great midfielders and forwards.

"All the players, such as Kenny Miller, Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, Aiden McGeady, Maciej Zurawski and Shaun Maloney are top quality players and they each have a different style.

"It means we can vary our play and the manager can easily change the shape and system. It makes our attacking play more unpredictable and makes it easier for me to create chances."

Nakamura pointed out: "Teams don't know which way we are going to attack them from, because of the variation in our play. It's a pleasure to be part of a team that plays in this style."

The midfielder revealed that football fans in his homeland have been able to follow Celtic's Champions' League adventures on television this season.

Celtic travel to Lisbon next week knowing victory would give them nine points and all but secure qualification through to the knockout stages of the tournament. Even a draw against Benfica would leave them in a strong position going into the final two Group F matches. "All the matches are shown back home and the Champions' League is a big thing in Japan," Nakamura said. "The Japanese people are getting to see Celtic play against the top European sides and I'm happy about that.

"Not many Japanese players play in the Champions' League. I've now managed to play in three matches and we've won two of them. I've had a great experience so far and that was one of the reasons I joined Celtic in the first place. The next away game against Benfica is the crucial one. If we get at least one point then we will have a good chance of getting into the last 16."

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