Johnston: Boyd key to survival
Kilmarnock manager Allan Johnston believes Kris Boyd can prove the difference in their battle against relegation.
Killie are four points and three places above the relegation play-off places but have champions Celtic to play on Friday night in the first of three consecutive games against the Scottish Premiership top three.
The Ayrshire side have shipped nine goals in two games against Celtic this season and Johnston wants his team to tighten up against the champions.
And he feels Boyd can prove the match-winner again after taking his tally for the season to 18 with a double in last weekend's 4-2 win over Hearts.
Johnston said: "If you allow them time and space to pass the ball they are going to hurt you because they're good players. If you stand off them they will just get into areas in between you and you'll never get a touch.
"So it's important we get close to people, close them down, and hopefully have a goal threat at the same time.
"In the two games we have played, they have scored a lot of goals, so it's important that we tighten up at the back and make sure we are always in the game. Because, when you have got someone of the quality of Boydy up front, you are always liable to get a goal.
"I think Kris Boyd is the difference between the majority of teams in the bottom six. With the quality he has got, he is always liable to score goals.
"We have got to make sure we get him on the ball in areas that hurt teams."
Recent signing Alexei Eremenko again looks set for a place on the bench after being an unused substitute against Hearts.
"He's a good player," Johnston said. "Obviously it's been difficult. The couple of games he has started it has been a wee bit frantic, because the games are meaning that much and people are closing him down really fast.
"But somebody of his ability can come on and make a huge difference."
Meanwhile, Neil Lennon has told Virgil van Dijk's agent not to get too presumptuous about the possibility of the Dutch defender departing Celtic at the end of the season.
Henk-Maarten Chin claimed the 22-year-old, a top performer for the Parkhead side since his move from FC Groningen last summer, could be on his way to England.
He was quoted as saying, "There has been no official approaches for Virgil yet, but that will come after the season ends. I expect something will happen for him this summer - the intention would be for him to earn a top transfer."
The Hoops boss confirmed that Celtic had withdrawn their appeal of Van Dijk's red card picked up against Aberdeen last month which leaves him sidelined on Friday night.
However, not only does he expect to have him back in the side next week, he insisted that it will be down to Celtic as to whether the former Holland Under-21 player will still be in his squad next season.
Lennon said: "I was disappointed with the timing of it and I think Virgil was disappointed too because he had no idea that it was coming.
"It is a bit premature. He is on a three-year contract here. I would guard against that.
"It is not on our horizon, as it were.
"He is one of our best players, we don't need to sell. We have brought him in and put him in an environment where has thrived and prospered, he is our player.
"So whether they want to go or not, it will be down to us to make that decision."
Nir Biton and James Forrest are out of the game. The Israeli midfielder will be sidelined for four weeks with a groin injury with Forrest out for two weeks with a similar complaint.
Striker Anthony Stokes is likely to recover from an ankle knock while Virgil van Dijk will serve a one-game suspension after Celtic withdrew their appeal against the Dutch defender's red card against Aberdeen last month.