Celtic could set sights on Austin if Hooper leaves
Celtic assistant manager Johann Mjallby has admitted Burnley striker Charlie Austin is a player they could target if Gary Hooper leaves - but he expects his top goalscorer to stay at Parkhead this month.
Mjallby today said there had been no fresh bids for Hooper since Norwich had an offer rejected late last week. Hooper brushed aside the speculation over his future by scoring twice in a 4-1 victory over Hearts on Saturday and is preparing to face Dundee United in a rearranged Clydesdale Bank Premier League fixture on Tuesday.
Mjallby said: "The situation hasn't changed at all since Saturday. We don't want Gary Hooper to leave. I think he is very happy here. He put in a great performance the other day.
"He is enjoying his football, he is enjoying playing for Celtic and enjoying his team-mates. Not only his goals at the weekend, but his general performance was very, very good.
"The only bid has been from Norwich but we expect there are going to be offers for our best players anyway. That's the way it is in this climate."
Mjallby confirmed reports that 6ft 2in Austin is a potential target should Celtic need a new forward. The 23-year-old, who cost Burnley a reported #1.8million from Swindon in July 2011, has scored 23 goals this season after netting 17 last term.
"He might be on the shortlist," Mjallby said. "Charlie is a proven goalscorer and he might come in handy in the future. But right now we think Gary will stay on, at least until the summer, and that will be great for the club.
"He is a top-class player. It's not only his goals, the last couple of months have shown he is improving his all-round game. We can use him in midfield as well because he is a very clever player.
"We want to keep him because he is improving and making the team better. Gary has proven to be the best goalscorer for us so that's one of the reasons we want to keep him.
"We always have a shortlist for players in each and every position but right now we are just thinking about Gary staying because he is a very important figure for our squad."
Goalkeeper Fraser Forster is likely to miss the visit of Dundee United with a stiff neck.
Adam Matthews and Kris Commons are minor doubts, while wingers James Forrest and Paddy McCourt are still out.
Efe Ambrose is on African Nations Cup duty with Nigeria and fellow defender Kelvin Wilson is suspended.
United manager Peter Houston believes being clever in possession can be the key to his side upsetting Celtic.
They travel to face the champions on the back of a 3-2 win away to Kilmarnock last weekend, but knowing they will have to up their standards even more if they are to get a result.
And Houston, who revealed last week he'll be leaving the Tannadice helm at the end of the season, insists they have got to keep the ball against Celtic.
Houston said: "It's another big test. It will be a case of when we get the ball we have to keep it as much as possible. Ball retention is always important against a quality side like Celtic and it will be the same for this game. I'm sure that if we pass the ball like we can, we can do well.
"Kilmarnock get a lot of praise for being a passing team but I thought we did that very well against them at the weekend, and I'll be looking for my players to continue that at Celtic."
United came from behind to earn a last-gasp 2-2 draw with the Hoops on Tayside back in November. But Houston knows they are still outsiders to pull off a shock in Glasgow, although he reckons that could work in their favour as they prepare to take on Neil Lennon's men.
He said: "There will be a different level of expectancy against Celtic compared to what we had at Kilmarnock. We're probably not expected to get much because of the way Celtic are playing and they're at home. But sometimes these games don't always go the way they're expected to and this is a challenge for our guys.
"It's up to them to go out and show what they can do and give it their best shot on the night. I've got belief in my players and we know what we're capable of on our day. We want to go there and enjoy ourselves and hopefully have something to show for our efforts."
United welcome back midfield pair Stuart Armstrong and Richie Ryan from injury, while defender Brian McLean is free from suspension. Houston said: "It will be good to have these guys back.
"We've had a pretty young bench for the past couple of games but this will hopefully help matters. We don't have the biggest of squads but we just have to work with what we've got."