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McPake: It's time to step up
Captain James McPake knows his Hibernian side must rediscover their early-season form to trouble Scottish Premier League leaders Celtic.
Fourth-placed Hibs have four points from their last seven games and put in a desperate performance in losing 1-0 to Ross County on Wednesday. McPake describes Celtic as "frightening" at their best and is well aware Hibs' top form is required for them to have any hope of improving on the 2-2 draw at Parkhead earlier this season. McPake said:
"Celtic are the best team in the country, no doubt about that. On their day they can be frightening.
"We proved when we went to Celtic Park that we can be a match for them.
"I think our biggest problem will be which Hibs team turns up.
"We've got to make sure that when we take to the pitch on Saturday we play the way we had been playing earlier in the season.
"If that happens then it should be a good game."
McPake returned from a troublesome back complaint against Motherwell only to be sent off and handed a one-match ban which saw him miss the draw at Kilmarnock. He is at a loss to explain the recent run which means Hibs last won in the SPL on November 28 against St Johnstone, but is confident they can consolidate their position in a congested table ahead of the winter break.
"It's a bit annoying," McPake added.
"Take away Wednesday, I don't think the performances have been that bad. We've been losing silly goals and we've not been killing teams off when maybe we should.
"We're still there or thereabouts in the league. We're not going to sulk, we're not going to get low in confidence. We're going to try to kick on and get back to the way we have been.
"First and foremost we've got to get the performance back to where we had been. We've got to forget about Wednesday.
"Although it's disappointing we've got to put it on the back-burner, try to kick on and try to put more points on the table and get back to performing the way we know we can.
"It will be a long couple of weeks (break) if we don't."
The task is tough for Hibs, who play Hearts next Thursday ahead of the two-week hiatus. Celtic are in a rich vein of form, having won their last five SPL matches, scoring 15 times in the process. Striker Gary Hooper has been linked with a big-money move in the winter transfer window, with Juventus among those reportedly interested, but Barcelona's conquerors also have a Champions League last-16 tie to play in February. McPake expects a busy afternoon against Hooper and company.
"He's a very good player," McPake said. "He's probably the best striker in the country. You don't get talked about, the clubs being interested in him without being a good player.
"We're not going to worry that it's Celtic, Gary Hooper's coming, Georgios Samaras.
"We've got to play our own game and hopefully everyone's talking about Leigh Griffiths or Eoin Doyle come the end of the game.
"We've got to go out and try to take the game to Celtic. Obviously they've got more quality and they can hurt you more than other teams in the league can.
"We've got to try to stand up, be strong at the back and hopefully our forward players can do it for us up top."
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