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Stokes expects Celtic to raise their game

15 Aug 2014 00:16:52

Stokes expects Celtic to raise their game

Anthony Stokes admits Celtic's performances must improve as they prepare to welcome Scottish Premiership leaders Dundee United to Celtic Park on Saturday.

The Hoops will unveil the Scottish Premiership championship flag before the match with Jackie McNamara's side, but the mood at the Glasgow club is still downbeat despite a winning start to the defence of their title at St Johnstone on Wednesday.

That result was a vast improvement from their back-to-back defeats in Champions League qualifiers against Legia Warsaw -- they remain in the competition after the Polish side were punished for fielding an ineligible player but the games still caused significant damage to Celtic morale.

However, Stokes, who scored the opener in the 3-0 win at McDiarmid Park in midweek, says the best is yet to come from the Hoops once new manager Ronny Deila stamps his style on the team.

"The gaffer has come in and he has set us up in the way he wants to play. I think there was some good football there," said the Irish striker.

"We moved the ball well, and what we haven't done before is create many chances but we did that on Wednesday night, and took them. It was a comfortable enough win in the end.

"We are only three or four games into the season and that was our first domestic game and we are only going to get better and sharper. We are still trying to improve and get our fitness up to peak performance."

Deila's men will need to be sharp against early pace-setters United, who have won both of their opening fixtures of the campaign.

Mario Bilate scored a wonder goal to secure United's 1-0 win over Motherwell in midweek and now the hitman has set his sights on wrecking Celtic's title party and his club's first win at Parkhead since December 1992.

"I have been told it has been some time since we last won at Celtic Park. Now we have a good chance. Our confidence is very high and it's only going up. This is the perfect opportunity to strike," said Dutch striker Bilate, whose new team lost last season's Scottish Cup final to St Johnstone at Parkhead.

"It is going to be a new experience for me. In the Championship in Holland sometimes you play in front of crowds of about 500.

"Playing at Celtic when we're top of the league will be a great experience.

"We can go there with confidence because we have shown we can play good football that sets us apart from other teams in the Premiership."

On Sunday, Hearts welcome Hibernian to Tynecastle for the first Edinburgh derby of the season.

The clubs, who are more accustomed to clashing in the top flight, now find themselves battling each other and fallen Glasgow giants Rangers for promotion from the Championship following relegation last season.

Both clubs go into the match unbeaten after Hibs defeated Livingston and Hearts won 2-1 away to title rivals Rangers on the opening weekend.

Hibs striker Farid El Alagui, who joined the Easter Road club in the close season, says he can't wait to compete in his first capital clash.

"When you see the Edinburgh Derby on the fixture list you just can't wait to be part of it and experience it all," El Alagui said.

"Everybody in the squad is looking forward to it. We want to go there, enjoy it and win.

"Our supporters deserve it and we'll all be giving everything we can in order to put a smile on their faces at the end of the game."

Fixtures (1400GMT unless stated):

Saturday

Celtic v Dundee United (1145GMT), Dundee v Partick Thistle, Hamilton v St Johnstone, Motherwell v Inverness CT, Ross County v Kilmarnock

Championship

Friday

Falkirk v Rangers (1845 GMT)

Saturday

Alloa v Raith Rovers, Dumbarton v Queen of the South, Livingston v Cowdenbeath

Sunday

Hearts v Hibernian (1130GMT)


AFP

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