Big names return at right time for Celtic
Celtic have been boosted by the return of a host of players as they prepare for a challenging fixture schedule in the Scottish Premier League and Champions League, starting at Motherwell on Saturday.
The Parkhead club travel to face the SPL leaders at Fir Park before flying to Russia to play Spartak Moscow four days later in Europe's elite club competition.
And manager Neil Lennon could have almost a full squad to pick from for the crucial matches after a number of key players made their comebacks from injury this week.
Beram Kayal and Joe Ledley, who have both been sidelined since facing Helsingborgs in the Champions League play-offs last month, made their returns in Tuesday's 4-1 League Cup third-round win against Raith Rovers.
They were joined by young winger Dylan McGeouch, who broke his jaw against Spanish giants Real Madrid in a friendly match, while Nigerian defender Efe Ambrose made an impressive debut for the Hoops.
Lennon could be further boosted with the news that striker Georgios Samaras could feature in the game against Motherwell.
The Greek forward has not played for the Parkhead club since dislocating his elbow while on international duty on September 7.
Samaras has returned to training and Lennon underlined his importance to the team.
"Samaras is a key man, full stop," the Celtic boss said. "We've missed him at times but he does seem to thrive in the European environment and we will give him every opportunity to be fit for Saturday and Tuesday."
Lennon revealed that, while the signs were good, he would not know for certain if the player had made a full recovery until he saw him in a competitive game.
"We've got a cast made for him that holds the arm in a certain position but you don't really know until you're out there in the hustle and bustle of it all and he gets a thump on it or he has to land on it," he said.
"We'll see what kind of reaction we get then. We are almost at full quota again going into a big stretch of games for us."
Meanwhile, Celtic defender Thomas Rogne has backed Gary Hooper to go on a goal-scoring run after a confidence boosting four-goal haul against Raith.
The English striker has only scored one goal in the SPL this season but Norwegian international Rogne is confident Hooper can build on Tuesday's performance.
"It's no surprise when Gary does something like that because that's what he's capable of," Rogne said.
"He scored five goals in the final game of last season against a quality team like Hearts.
"He is a quality striker for us. It was nice for him to score a few goals for us.
"Scoring goals is always good for a striker. Hopefully he will continue doing that in the games we have coming up."
Motherwell sit two points above Celtic in the league, although the Hoops have played a game less.
Stuart McCall will have to lift his side after they were knocked out of the League Cup by Rangers in midweek, and defender Shaun Hutchinson is a doubt after a head knock suffered during that defeat.
Elsewhere, in-form Hibernian could leapfrog 'Well into top spot with a win at Aberdeen in Saturday's early kick-off, while Kilmarnock travel to Hearts.
St Mirren host Ross County, whose 40-game unbeaten league run was ended last weekend, Dundee United go to Inverness and bottom club Dundee face St Johnstone in a Tayside derby.
Saturday (kick-offs 1400 GMT unless stated)
Aberdeen v Hibernian (1100), Dundee v St Johnstone, Hearts v Kilmarnock, Inverness Caledonian Thistle v Dundee United, Motherwell v Celtic, St Mirren v Ross County
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