CHARLIE MULGREW insists there is no danger of Celtic taking their eye off the ball when they face Hibs this weekend.
The league leaders will arrive at Easter Road for Saturday’s lunchtime clash just three days before they host Ajax in a crucial Champions League tie at Celtic Park.
With Neil Lennon’s side currently sitting bottom of Group H following defeats to AC Milan and Barcelona, it’s a match they must win to retain any realistic hope of reaching the last 16 of Europe’s premier competition.
The stakes are high but Mulgrew is adamant his team must give the game against Hibs their full attention or risk being punished by Pat Fenlon’s in-form side.
The Hibees stunned the champions on their only visit to Easter Road last term when a single strike from Leigh Griffiths settled the December clash, and Mulgrew is in little doubt over the threat posed by Saturday’s opponents.
“It is always a hard game to go through there and play at Easter Road,” Mulgrew said.
“I am sure they will be up for it. We will need to match that and be ready for them.
“I think they always raise their game when they play Celtic.
“I know they have lost Leigh Griffiths but they have still got a lot of good strikers there and guys like Kevin Thomson, who has been doing very well for them, so we know what they are capable of.
“We have focused on our domestic stuff before Champions League games already this season and got good results. This Saturday is no different and we’ll be fully focused on Hibs. The Ajax game is a massive one, it is a home match and one we need to win if we are going to progress.
“But it is only after the Hibs game that we will be able to look ahead to that one.”
Mulgrew added: “The Champions League nights are hard to explain, the fans are absolutely brilliant and they get right behind you.
“It’s like nothing I have ever seen before and they are great to be involved in. Obviously, it’s an exciting time but I think that we have done well already this season in terms of putting these games to the back of our minds and concentrating on the very next game and not looking too far ahead.”
Mulgrew was a standout performer on Tuesday as Scotland ended their World Cup qualifying campaign on a high, goals from Robert Snodgrass – set up by Mulgrew’s cross – and Steven Naismith securing a 2-0 victory over Croatia at Hampden.
The victory made it nine points from four competitive matches for the Scots and moved Gordon Strachan’s men above Wales into fourth in Group A.
And Mulgrew, like players, supporters and neutral observers alike, believes Scotland are finally going in the right direction.
Scotland haven’t qualified for a major finals since the 1998 World Cup in France and, while the bid for Brazil 2014 was unsuccessful, there is real hope that the Tartan Army will make it to Euro 2016.
While the Celtic defender believes Strachan is having a positive effect on his troops, Mulgrew urged fans not to get too carried away by the progress that has already been made on the international scene.
He continued: “We have got to keep progressing, but the manager is certainly getting his ideas across. Everyone is liking what he is doing and I think you can see that by the performances we have been putting in recently. We have got to take it step by step now though, and not get too carried away. There’s no doubt, however, that there are a lot of positives to take from the game against Croatia.
“We passed the ball well; we did a lot of good things. But there are also things that we could probably have done better, too.
“It was a great result for us.”
Mulgrew played at left-back against the Croats, but is likely to be back in his more familiar role of midfield, alongside Scott Brown, at club level this weekend.
While Mulgrew clearly prefers a midfield role, he is more than happy just to be involved on a regular basis for both club and country, adding: “There were a few injuries on Tuesday so I was doing a job for the team and I don’t mind that.
“As long as I am playing then I am happy to get on with it.
“I have said before that in the midfield it suits me to get on the ball more and I enjoy it a wee bit better in there bu,t if I am needed at left-back, then I am happy to do the job.”