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Friday 30 September 2016

Leigh is key to Celtic victory

Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths will play a pivotal role in tomorrow’s Scottish FA Cup clash with bitter rivals Rangers Photo: PA
Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths will play a pivotal role in tomorrow’s Scottish FA Cup clash with bitter rivals Rangers Photo: PA

Former Celtic captain Stephen McManus believes Leigh Griffiths will be a key player in tomorrow's Hampden derby after proving he has the mental strength to lead the line for the Hoops.

The Motherwell defender got an unwelcome reminder of the striker's single-minded attitude last Saturday when Griffiths struck twice at Fir Park to earn three points for the Ladbrokes Premiership leaders.

The former Hibernian player had earlier missed a penalty and showed what it meant to break a four-game duck - which included Scotland's friendly with Denmark - by racing the entire length of the pitch to celebrate his opener in front of the visiting fans.

Character

Griffiths has now scored 37 goals this season and McManus predicted he will be a key player when Celtic take on Rangers in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-finals.

McManus said: "Strikers need to score goals for themselves, for the pressure of it. Playing for Celtic you get a lot of chances and sometimes that can play on your mind when you are not scoring.

"But the most important thing is he still in there, and he's going to be a big, big player for Celtic at the weekend.

"Leigh Griffiths has had a tremendous season. It's not easy scoring goals at the Old Firm, certainly not Celtic.

"You need to be the right type of character to handle the pressure, to relish the pressure that comes with it, and Leigh Griffiths has certainly done that.

"He will now be looking to advance on his next aim, to become a regular for Scotland. But he has had a terrific season and when you have someone like Leigh Griffiths in your side you know you are going to get chances and you know you will get an opportunity to score goals."

Meanwhile, Rangers boss Mark Warburton has told his Old Firm debutants to make sure they come away from tomorrow's showdown with no regrets.

The Englishman is preparing for the biggest test of his Ibrox reign as he squares up to Celtic.

The majority of his squad have never faced the white-hot atmosphere of the Glasgow derby. But Warburton insists his men will handle the heat at Hampden.

Speaking in his final press conference ahead of the weekend clash, he said: "(Assistant manager) Davie Weir has played in many of these games. So has (striker) Kenny Miller and (goalkeeping coach) Jim Stewart so there is lots of experience in the camp.

"But it's pointless saying I know what's coming. If you haven't played in the game it would be foolhardy to say you know what will happen.

"However, these guys are pro footballers. This is what they do. If you are bricklayer and get told to build a wall twice as big as normal, you get on with it and deal with it.

"The lads are well-prepared, they have worked hard all season.

"They are in a good place. They've won the league and are moving on. They are looking forward to the game and I think they'll relish it.

"There are no wobbles. It isn't a bridge too far. Far from it. I've told them, 'don't look back with any regrets. Go and enjoy it'."

Celtic v Rangers, Live tomorrow (Sky Sports 2, KO 12.0)

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