Friday 03 June 2016

Celtic expect tough match

Samaras Lennon Durakovic Brebner

Georgios Samaras, Neil Lennon, Mehmet Durakovic and Grant Brebner face the media.

Celtic expects tough match

Roy Hay

Celtic expects its toughest match of its three-game Australian tour when it takes on Melbourne Victory at AAMI stadium on Wednesday night.

Coach Neil Lennon said ‘We played well in Perth, but we were dead in Sydney, though surprisingly we played better in second half. We are just getting ready for the season and the players have had a short turn-round this year.’

‘We have had a good week’s work on the physical condition of the players and we have a big squad with us. We will try to give as many players as possible some game time.’

With league matches and Europa league qualifying matches starting almost as soon as Celtic return home, this tour is genuine preparation for the new season.

Celtic has brought its strongest line-up including Greek international Georgios Samaras who will captain the team in Melbourne.

Asked how he felt about being here, he replied, ‘I feel at home.’ With family and a huge Greek community in Victoria, no wonder that was his reaction.

Victory will be without star midfielder Carlos Hernandez who returned late from a trial in the United States and has been disciplined as a result.

Scots midfielder Grant Brebner was looking forward to his first match in Australia against a top team from his homeland.

Asked about the difficulty of competing with the resources of the English Premier League in the search for quality players to maintain Celtic’s reputation in international competition, Lennon said it was a challenge.

He was pleased with the current output of the Celtic academy.

‘James Forrest broke through last year and has a really good future, and there are three or four younger ones who look like being Celtic players for the long run,’ he said.

‘We have had a gap as it is six years since Aiden McGeady broke through.’

Mehmet Durakovic, Melbourne Victory coach, said that Victory players had had a long rest and were just started pre-season but ‘What an opportunity to play against a top club like Celtic.’

Assistant coach Kevin Muscat is relishing his new role. ‘I am just acting as assistant to Mehmet, though I will be working with the younger players. Several of them have the ability to make it but they need to take the next step.’ He mentioned defender Petar Franjic, who had a couple of games last year, as one who really needed to show that he could do it in the coming season. ‘Being exposed to the Celtic quality will be excellent experience for him,’ he said.

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