Celtic V Ross County at Celtic Park : Match Preview

21 December 2012 06:01
Celtic V Ross County - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

League before Juve for Brown

Celtic captain Scott Brown knows they must focus on their league campaign and put thoughts of Juventus to one side to ensure they resume their Champions League campaign in peak form and condition.

Celtic have plenty to distract them from Thursday's draw for the last 16 with Ross County visiting Parkhead on Saturday and Clydesdale Bank Premier League games against Dundee, Hibernian and Motherwell following in the subsequent 11 days.

The Italian champions visit Parkhead for the first leg on February 12 and Brown will try to put that game out of his mind following the initial excitement of the draw.

The 27-year-old said: "We have six or seven weeks so we need to focus on that and not really worry too much about this Champions League. We will wait for that to happen when it comes around.

"There are always injuries and places up for grabs as well. No-one is guaranteed a game. Every day in training the lads look forward to it.

"That's the main thing, giving 100% at training so we go into games looking sharper and fitter."

The SPL shuts down for two weekends after the festive schedule and Brown is one of the players most in need of a winter break having played through a degenerative hip condition for several months, although the pain has eased in recent weeks.

"We have a lot of games coming up, four games in the next week and a half," he said. "It's going to be hard and going to be hectic.

"But after that we can sit down and chill out for a week and recharge our batteries."

Celtic secured their Champions League qualification with home wins over Barcelona and Spartak Moscow but they had gone two months without taking three SPL points at Parkhead before last weekend's 2-0 victory over St Mirren.

And Brown and manager Neil Lennon are determined to build on that triumph.

"Our away form has been second to none, we have done really well," Brown said. "Our home form has been disappointing, we have been conceding a lot of late goals and conceding a lot of goals compared to what we did last season when we went on a 17-match winning run and played brilliant. "We just need to try to get back in the form we were on at the end of last season."

Ross County manager Derek Adams feels the lack of expectation on his team could help them get a result at Celtic Park.

County travel to face the Clydesdale Bank Premier League leaders on the back of a nervy 1-1 home draw against Dundee, which extended their run without victory to eight games but kept them six points above the bottom club.

Few will expect County to end that run on Saturday, but they have famously upset the odds against Celtic before, beating Neil Lennon's men in the 2010 Scottish Cup semi-final and drawing against them in Dingwall in August.

Adams said: "It's one of those games where no-one is expecting you to do well but we are going to go there to try to win the game and hopefully come away with something.

"I think looking at them training this week the pressure has been taken off them a bit because they're going to Celtic Park and they're not expected to win the match."

Celtic secured their first SPL win at Parkhead for two months by beating St Mirren 2-0 last weekend.

Adams said: "It's important that we retain possession and create chances. We know how difficult that can be at Celtic Park but this season Celtic haven't been at full tilt at times at home and other teams have been able to win games against them."

The Staggies boss will be looking for a repeat performance of the first SPL fixture between the teams, where his side were seconds from taking all three points before Kris Commons hit a last-gasp equaliser deep into injury-time.

Adams said: "I think we started the game very well and being at home and being early in the season it was good to play Celtic at that time and I think the way we passed the ball and created openings was why we did so well.

"I think sometimes you have to try to put them under pressure earlier in the game and see what they're like and see what there motivation is like on the day.

"You can't just sit back and soak up pressure because then you're asking for trouble."


Source: PA