Emilio Izaguirre return is silver lining

EMILIO IZAGUIRRE is ready to make a timely return to action – in a week which can define Celtic's season.

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Emilio Izaguirre has recovered from injury ahead of schedule
Emilio Izaguirre has recovered from injury ahead of schedule

Starting with tonight's SPL game at Tynecastle, and ending with the final Champions League Group Stage game against Spartak Moscow, with a potential banana skin Scottish Cup tie against Arbroath sandwiched in between, manager Neil Lennon just wants his players to safely get to the other side of this testing time.

The news Honduran defender Izzy has recovered ahead of schedule from the hamstring injury picked up against Dundee United on November 4, and is expected to figure this weekend to set him up for the final Group G game against the Russians, is a huge lift.

After defeats to Benfica and Inverness, Lennon wants his side to get back to winning form against Hearts tonight and said: "The priority is the league.

"The Champions League has been brilliant. It's been a great adventure. And we want to progress in it because it is the premier event.

"We want to be in all the competitions, and we're going to be in four at New Year, by the looks of it anyway, so long as we don't lose to Arbroath.

"That's a great thing to have going into the New Year, and it's testament to the players who have come through a really hectic schedule.

"We will go strong tonight, and see what we have for the weekend and, obviously, we'll have a big eye on next Wednesday because it is a huge game for us."

Lennon is also wary of Hearts and has every sympathy for the plight of their players who can't be sure when their next wage will be paid.

He recognises this might make them even more dangerous and warned: "They keep asking the players to go beyond the call of duty and they respond brilliantly.

"They seem to galvanise themselves time after time. With us coming, it raises their game and I expect them to be as professional as they always are."

However, Lennon is more interested in how his own players respond to recent criticism.

Asked if he thinks Hearts might feel the backlash, he replied: "I hope so. I'm looking for a positive reaction.It's a good team we're playing, so it's a good game to get our teeth into."

Looking further ahead, Lennon hopes to open talks with representatives of American trialist Juan Agudelo.

He confirmed: "He has impressed us, and we're hoping to take that further. We're hoping to speak to his representatives over the next week or so."

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