Hibernian V Celtic at Easter Road Stadium : Match Preview

18 October 2013 04:31
Hibernian V Celtic - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Handling backs Thomson for Scotland

Hibernian midfielder Kevin Thomson will square up to best pal Scott Brown when Celtic visit Easter Road on Saturday - but Leith teenager Danny Handling believes the duo should be pairing up for Scotland.

Brown and Thomson came through the ranks with the capital club before each won moves to the opposite halves of the Old Firm divide.

But while Brown has grown in stature at Celtic Park and now skippers both club and country, Thomson has been forced to return to Hibs to rebuild his career.

The 29-year-old won two Scottish titles with Rangers as well as a Scottish Cup winners' medal and two League Cups but injuries wrecked his move to Middlesbrough in 2010 and he was initially forced to play for free when he returned to Leith in February.

However, Handling says Thomson's rejuvenated form deserves to see him add to his three Scotland caps collected so far.

The 19-year-old said: "Scott and Kevin are similar in some ways. To me, they are both leaders and help the team.

"Broony is more attacking than Thommo but they both play in a similar way - they both fight, they both tackle and they both like to pass the ball.

"They are the top players at both their clubs. Scott is obviously captain of both Scotland and Celtic but to me Kevin has still had a very good career.

"He's been at Rangers, played for Middlesbrough and now he's back at Hibs. And he's played for Scotland. If you achieve half of that I'd say you were doing well.

"He's played for these big sides and has been in the Champions League with Rangers. He has definitely enjoyed his fair share of success.

"He's one of the best players I've ever played with. The way he motivates the rest of the guys in our team is massive.

"He isn't getting any younger but he can definitely get back into the Scotland squad on a regular basis and maybe even win another move to a massive club."

Handling, along with Paul Cairney, could be passed fit to start on the bench.

The winger has not featured since bruising a bone on his foot against Ross County in August, while midfielder Cairney has not played at all this season as a result of a troublesome ankle injury but both men are now back in boss Pat Fenlon's squad after featuring for the Under-20s side in recent weeks.

However, Alan Maybury (thigh), Tim Clancy (groin), Alex Harris (ankle), Jordon Forster (groin) and Sam Stanton (hip) remain out.

Neil Lennon believes the meeting is "pivotal" to a week that also brings the crucial Champions League clash with Ajax.

The Hoops return to domestic duty after the international break three points clear of Inverness at the top of the league table.

The trip to Leith represents a chance to increase that lead, with Caley not playing Partick until Sunday, as well as acting as a tune-up for the visit of the Dutch champions next Tuesday night as Celtic look to put their first European points on the board.

Defeats against AC Milan and Barcelona have dented their qualification hopes, which took another blow on Thursday when skipper Brown was handed a three-match ban for his red card against the Catalan giants earlier in the month.

Celtic confirmed they will appeal after describing UEFA's punishment as"excessive" but in the meantime, the Parkhead boss is looking to build on the convincing home win over Motherwell in their last outing.

He said: "Talking about momentum, (the Hibs game) is pivotal.

"The players have responded to everything that we have asked them to do in the league but if they want to play on Tuesday night they are going to have to play at their best on Saturday.

"It is there for them and it is another great week for us.

"The Ajax game is huge in terms of the group and where we want to be in the group.

"I wouldn't say it is a must-win game, but it is a game we would dearly love to win to get us up and running in the group.

"We mustn't lose. I don't like making predictions but if we could get four points out of the next two games it would set us up very nicely indeed. But it is a big ask."

Mikael Lustig is a major doubt for the clash. The Hoops right-back injured his hip on international duty with Sweden last week and may even miss the home clash with Ajax.

However, midfielders Joe Ledley and Tom Rogic are back from their respective groin injuries and James Forrest is expected to be fit again after a combination of sciatica and a virus kept him out of Scotland's final World Cup qualifier against Croatia on Tuesday night.

Derek Boerrigter (ankle), Adam Matthews (shoulder) and Steve Moyoukolo (Achilles) remain out.

Source: PA