A fit Leigh Griffiths is key for Celtic, says Murdo MacLeod

Leigh Griffiths missed Scotland's win in Malta with a hamstring injury. Picture: Johnston Press
Leigh Griffiths missed Scotland's win in Malta with a hamstring injury. Picture: Johnston Press
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Former Celtic assistant manager Murdo MacLeod believes Leigh Griffiths could be the difference between the teams in Saturday’s clash with Rangers - if the striker recovers from injury.

The 26-year-old missed Scotland’s 2018 World Cup qualifying win in Malta on Sunday with a hamstring complaint.

However, the Parkhead club are confident that Griffiths, along with left-back Kieran Tierney who also withdrew from Gordon Strachan’s squad with an ankle injury, will be ready for the first visit of Rangers in four years.

Ex-Celtic and Scotland midfielder MacLeod, speaking in Glasgow where was helping publicise The Scottish Qualification Authority’s (SQA) endorsement of skills, education and training firm, Spohrt, stressed the importance of Griffiths, who has already scored seven goals this season.

He said: “In any Old Firm game you need people who can score goals and when you have got Griffiths fully fit, that is so important because I think he is the one that will get goals.

“I think that is the priority number one.

“Griffiths is the guy you look at that is going to score, whether from outside the box or inside the box.

“He is a predator and he will score goals for you at all levels.”

MacLeod believes that in bringing in players like former Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool defender Kolo Toure and ex-Manchester City and Aston Villa forward Scott Sinclair, Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers had the better of his Glasgow rivals in the transfer window.

However, he believes an Old Firm game is the acid test for debutants in both sides.

He said: “We have looked at the new players arriving at both clubs, good quality players, so hopefully it will be an Old Firm game that we can talk about for what happens on the pitch.

“Celtic have brought in the higher class player, I think.

“When you are bringing players from Liverpool, boys who have played at Man City - it is good quality players they have brought in.

“Rangers have brought in good quality as well, so I think Rangers fans will be going into this game hoping they all produce a good performance on the day.

“Celtic fans will be looking at their team and thinking they are a strong side, quicker, better and they can win the match.

“There have been a lot of players and even big name players who have turned up for an Old Firm game and not played well.

“Some players in the past, you have looked at them and thought that he will be great addition to the club and they have not produced anything.

“You have to wait until the game actually happens and then decided how well they have played.”

Much of the talk this week has been about the impending battle between Rangers midfielder Joey Barton and Celtic captain Scott Brown.

After signing for the Ibrox club in the summer, the 34-year-old Englishman was publicly dismissive of Brown, claiming that he was “nowhere near the level I am as a player”.

MacLeod is looking forward to the tussle in what is sure to be a frantic Ladbrokes Premiership encounter, but hopes both see out the 90 minutes.

He said: “Obviously that has been all the hype and I will be looking forward to seeing how they get on with each other.

“I hope it will be a game where the two will be battling away in the middle of the park, but both stay on the pitch.

“The players who can handle the Old Firm match will come out on top.”

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