Celtic not going to slip up at Hibernian in SPL opening match

By Billy Blakeman on 24/07/2011 08:16


Hibernian (from):Stack, Wotherspoon, Hanlon, Stephens, Booth, Murray, Thornhill, Galbraith, Stevenson, Palsson, De Graaf, O'Hanlon, O'Connor, Sproule, Crawford, Horner, Taggart, Brown.

Absentees:Akpo Sodje (knee), Sean Welsh (cheekbone), Martin Scott (achilles), Michael Hart (ankle)

Celtic (from):Zaluska, Matthews, M Wilson, K Wilson, Loovens, Majstorovic, Izaguirre, Ki, Wanyama, Kayal, Maloney, Mulgrew, Commons, Forrest, Samaras, Stokes, Hooper, Cervi, Cha.

Absentees:  Scott Brown (suspended) Paddy McCourt, Darren O'Dea (both knee), Thomas Rogne and Jos Hooiveld (both calf strain)

Colin Calderwood's comments (Hibs):"The aim for the season is European qualification via either the league or the cups.

"We'll need a real big improvement for that though. I can't see us starting the season in the type of form that will take us to that level. What I see is scope in the unit to improve - we'll certainly have to ride out one or two storms through the first half of the season. Going into the first game we're not perfect and are a wee bit under-strength but hopefully we can grow as a team. We have to deal in the fact we've got a tough opening game and then travel to Inverness which is a difficult place to go. Saying that we hope to take points early on and register a win in our opening three matches."

Neil Lennon's comments (Celtic); "I think the players grew as the season progressed but it is hard to gauge whether or not they have taken another step in the close season. Once we have three or four games we will have a good idea of where we are heading. The expectation level might be higher because of what we achieved last year, probably not many people expected it. We ran Rangers so close and got to two cup finals but we feel we have a talented group of players and we want to go one better. I am grateful for the opportunity to carry on as manager, first and foremost, and looking forward to the challenge of trying to improve the team. I want to try to get more consistency, play better football, score more goals, keep more cleans sheets and accumulate more points. It is the challenge ahead of us and I think Europe is also important to us, not just to myself but the players and the club. So we have a lot of incentives going in to the new season."

Match Verdict – Whilst Rangers may have slipped a couple of points against Hearts, Celtic should be looking at less resistance from Hibernian and expect Lennon to gain an early advantage over McCoist with an away victory.

Recommendation: Celtic to win match at 4/9 (Victor Chandler)