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Inverness CT V Celtic at Tulloch Caledonian Stadium : Match Preview

08 Feb 2013 18:31:28

Inverness CT V Celtic at Tulloch Caledonian Stadium : Match Preview

Inverness CT V Celtic - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.


Lennon to shuffle pack ahead of Juve test

Neil Lennon will ring the changes against Inverness as he gears up for the "biggest game" of his managerial career against Juventus.

The Celtic manager says he will hand game time to some of his fringe players as he bids to keep his core personnel fresh for the last-16 clash with the Italian giants on Tuesday.

But Lennon denied that his side's 15-point lead over Caley at the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League makes his decision any easier.

"It is a balancing act but I will make changes," he said.

"I have got Juventus in mind. It is the biggest game we have had here since Gordon Strachan's time and the biggest game of some of the players' career, and certainly my managerial career.

"I don't want to take too many chances on Saturday.

"We have got a cushion but that is no guarantee you are going to win the league and it is not the reason I am making changes.

"If the gap was three points, I would probably still do it and take the gamble."

Juventus are sitting three points clear of Napoli at the top of Serie A but Lennon does not believe they will be a more difficult prospect than Barcelona, who were famously defeated by the Hoops in the group stage at Parkhead in November.

"Juventus are a formidable team, a daunting prospect, but I think the players have been looking at this game for quite a while and I am looking for a big night from them," said Lennon.

"We have been overdosing on them the last few weeks in terms of DVD analysis.

"Juventus and Barcelona are two different sides, two different mentalities.

"I think Juventus are more pragmatic. Barcelona do a lot of things off the cuff because they are so good.

"Juventus are very rigid in their formation, three at the back, one sitting and two wing-backs getting forward. They are a little bit more defensive-minded than Barcelona and they will be very difficult to break down although they probably don't have the flair or quality in forward areas than Barcelona."

Lennon welcomes back goalkeeper Fraser Forster from a neck injury but still has doubts over several other players ahead of next Tuesday night.

Winger James Forrest, forward Georgios Samaras (both hamstring) and left-back Emilio Izaguirre (knee) are question marks, while defender Efe Ambrose is away on African Nations Cup duty with Nigeria.

"We have no fresh injury worries from the international games but James has had two scans this week, the first one was all clear so we are waiting on the results of the second one," said Lennon.

"We are hoping if we get the all-clear he will be in the squad for Tuesday night."

Samaras and Izaguirre will be missing against Inverness, and Lennon admits they will both be touch and go for Tuesday.

"We are going to leave it as late as possible with Georgios and Emilio," he said.

"It is 50-50 at the minute. Emilio has probably got a better chance than Samaras although they have worked very hard this week and we have been very aggressive with their rehabilitation."

Inverness midfielder Ross Draper has targeted a top-three finish in the SPL as the Highlanders seek to confound their critics again.

Caley Thistle lost three games in eight days - including two cup ties against Hearts and Kilmarnock - before turning their attentions to Celtic.

But Draper is determined to show the doubters this season's promise will not evaporate on the back of one week.

Inverness have come a long way since Terry Butcher assembled his team following a number of departures at the end of last season.

The previous visit of Celtic in August saw Neil Lennon's men win 4-2 but Draper's two late goals ensured the scoreline very much flattered Inverness.

But they subsequently only lost to Motherwell between that game and their current three-game losing run and won at Parkhead in November to prove wrong those who wrote off Inverness after that comprehensive defeat against Celtic.

Draper, who arrived from Macclesfield in the summer, said: "People are entitled to their opinion but we had a new team coming together.

"I think we have shown 20 games later, they are eating their own words. We have shown what we can do as a team that's used to each other.

"People are entitled to their opinions but it's nice to prove them wrong sometimes.

"The Celtic game at home was early doors, we hadn't moulded together as a team. We had a number of new faces and basically had a back four that hadn't played together.

"It took us maybe seven or eight games to get going and get our run started. We don't read too much into that game at home.

"The lads were terrific, I went down to watch them when I was injured, away from home against Celtic. Celtic are aware we could cause an upset on Saturday."

Draper returns from suspension while Andrew Shinnie and Richie Foran could both make the Inverness squad despite being taken off injured at Kilmarnock last weekend.

Shinnie (tight hamstring) has more chance of making the game than Foran (knee) but neither are ruled out.


PA

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