Kilmarnock V Dundee Utd at Rugby Park : Match Preview
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Ibrahim: Nigeria career depends on Killie
Rabiu Ibrahim is hoping a fresh start at Kilmarnock will help him make the final step in his international career with Nigeria.
The 21-year-old attacking midfielder, who switched to Rugby Park earlier in the month after failing to make the breakthrough at Celtic, was named in the initial 31-man Nigerian squad for the African Nations Cup but did not make the final cut.
Ibrahim has represented his country at under-17, under-20 and under-23 level and is looking to make the transition to the senior side as a Killie player, after signing a two-year contract early in the month.
"I am not disappointed at being left out," he said. "It was my first squad, I went there and did very well and they are happy with me.
"They said that I should go back and work hard to be playing week in and week out and I will be called up for the World Cup qualifiers.
"So my international career depends on Kilmarnock.
"If I do very well and consistently, they will be watching and I will definitely get my chance in the national team."
Ibrahim is set to make his debut against Dundee United at Rugby Park after being granted a Scottish Football Association endorsement towards his work permit.
He said: "We have been training very hard this week and we are looking forward to the game on Saturday.
"We want nothing less than victory."
Manuel Pascali and Mo Sissoko have recovered from their respective hamstring and ankle injuries to take their place in the Kilmarnock squad for the clash at Rugby Park.
Danny Racchi, Garry Hay and William Gros remain on the sidelines.
Dundee United manager Peter Houston believes a victory against Kilmarnock will help offset any concerns about his decision to quit at the end of the season.
Houston confirmed this week he will not be renewing his current contract when it expires in the summer, but stressed he is still fully committed to the club for now.
The Tannadice boss knows some fans may question his motivation for the remainder of the campaign now that he has taken the decision to move on. But he hopes a win at Rugby Park will allow the focus to shift back to results on the park, rather than his own situation.
Houston said: "I wasn't looking for a reaction from the players when I told them I was leaving. I want the reaction to be on Saturday, when we play Kilmarnock.
"I told them we have to make sure we are focused. We have trained magnificently this week and there was a good spirit, as there always is.
"I've got the reports, I've done my home work for Saturday. I know the game-plan when we go to Rugby Park.
"We put this to bed now and hopefully the one thing that will keep the fans from being unhappy is if the team starts winning again."
United currently sit eighth in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League table, with Houston determined to go out on a high.
He firmly believes the top six is achievable again this term and has no fears about the motivation and commitment of his players either.
He said: "I still believe we can finish in the top six and I still believe we can put a run together because they are a great bunch of boys.
"They work ever so hard. They don't always play well but you can never guarantee that anyway. They work hard, they train hard and their attitude is absolutely spot on.
"I don't have a problem with any player in the dressing room. I can have no complaints about the attitude and efforts of the players at Dundee United Football Club."
Dundee United are set to be boosted by the return of Gary Mackay-Steven.
The winger is expected to play some part at Rugby Park after recovering from the fractured hand he suffered in November.
Defender Brian McLean remains on the sidelines as he completes a two-match ban.
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