RYAN Jack is determined to contain the threat of Callum McGregor at Parkhead today but the Aberdeen midfielder is far from surprised by his Celtic rival’s meteoric rise this season.
Jack made his 17th and final appearance for Scotland’s under 21 side when he captained them to victory against Luxembourg earlier this week.
Several of those caps were won alongside McGregor, whose impressive start to this campaign earned promotion to the senior squad for the Euro 2016 qualifier in Germany.
Now they go head-to-head in a match that will go a long way to deciding whether the Dons can emerge as challengers to the champions.
Jack has a vital part to play in making it happen, having excelled in the role of sitting in front of the back four since Derek McInnes took over as manager.
That’s certain to bring him into close contact with someone Jack always knew was destined to make a major impact for club and country.
The midfielder said: “He’s a really good player and I’m not surprised he had started the season so well. I played alongside Callum in the under-21s and already knew he was a great talent.
“I could see with the under-21s that he had real ability and he went out on loan to Notts County to get experience and grabbed some goals. Now he’s doing so well for Celtic and that’s why he is getting his Scotland chance.
“That’s a lesson for all players that if you are doing consistently well with your club it will be recognised.
“But you can’t just pick out one player from the Celtic squad because they are all talented. You have to be to play for Celtic.”
Jack’s own talent is something his current manager believes has been underrated outwith Pittodrie, despite the 22-year-old playing more than 120 games for the club. It was Mark McGhee who gave the midfielder his top-team debut and, so far, a win at Celtic Park has been missing from his list of personal achievements.
He did win the League Cup at the venue last season but league matches there have included a 9-0 defeat and a red card in the past.
Injury kept Jack out of Aberdeen’s Scottish Cup win at Celtic Park last season and it is ten years and 18 games since the Dons even picked up point at the Glasgow ground.
That is why he is so adamant nothing that has happened in the past is relevant today and added: “We don’t want to always be talking about our win in the cup at Parkhead last season.
“They have a new manager and some new players. It will be different and it could be a different season, though you’re never going to go to Celtic Park and have an easy game. We need to be as prepared as we can and look forward to it. Celtic are champions and, while they’ve maybe not done so well in Europe, they are doing well in the league.
“They have quality individuals and no matter what their line-up is, it is going to be a very tough game.”
Ashton Taylor will partner Mark Reynolds in central defence for Aberdeen as captain Russell Anderson is recovering from recent knee surgery.
Clark Robertson is also out for at least a month after suffering a thigh injury playing for Scotland under-21s against Slovakia last weekend and on-loan winger Jeff Monakana is also out.
But former Celtic midfielder Willo Flood is back after missing the win against Partick Thistle and Jonny Hayes has recovered from an ankle injury.