GARY LOCKE today warned Hearts that Celtic will arrive at Tynecastle with all guns blazing on Saturday regardless of international commitments this week or next Wednesday’s Champions League trip to Milan. The Scottish champions regathered their squad at their Lennoxtown training base today after a two-week international break involving nine first-team players.
Scott Brown and Charlie Mulgrew were on duty with Scotland, Joe Ledley and Adam Matthews played for Wales, Georgios Samaras was with Greece, Mikael Lustig with Sweden, Teemu Pukki represented Finland, Efe Ambrose was in Nigeria and Emilio Izaguirre played for Honduras.
They returned to Scotland yesterday to prepare for the visit to Edinburgh to face Hearts. After that comes a high-octane encounter in the San Siro next Wednesday as Celtic begin their Champions League Group H campaign against AC Milan.
Despite the travelling involved both before and after Saturday’s lunchtime fixture, Locke advised his young players that Celtic will be raring to go at a venue many of their players favour.
“I don’t think they will have their guard down in any way,” said the Hearts manager. “What intrigues me is that you read comments from a lot of the Celtic players and, when they talk about what arena they like playing in, a lot of them say Tynecastle.
“It’s a place where, this season especially, it’s buzzing. All the Celtic players are always up for it when they come to Tynecastle.
“We are facing players who have taken Celtic into the Champions League so they’ve got a lot of quality throughout and a good number of international players. Many of them have been away playing for their countries this week so that shows you the mark of their squad.
“It’s a game we should all be looking forward to. It will be a really difficult game but I’m hoping we can put in a performance similar to the two we’ve given at home already this season. It’s a brilliant test for us and hopefully one we can rise to. We must take confidence from the two games we’ve had at Tynecastle so far.
“I’d like to improve on our away form but we’ve played well at home against two really good sides in Hibs and Aberdeen.
“If we can take those performances into the game against Celtic, we give ourselves a chance of getting a result. We all know how difficult it’s going to be. We’re playing the champions at Tynecastle and they always give us a hard game, but we feel we can cause them one or two problems.”
Celtic defender Lustig may not take part this weekend due to a back problem suffered on international duty with Sweden. Parkhead medical staff were due to assess Lustig today.