Celtic manager Neil Lennon will throw James Forrest right back into action this weekend against Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the hope of unleashing him against Juventus at Parkhead on Tuesday.
The 21-year-old winger made his first appearance for the SPL champions since December in Sunday’s William Hill Scottish Cup fifth-round victory over Raith Rovers.
He struck the second goal in Celtic’s 3-0 success at Stark’s Park, and impressed his manager so much with his pace, intent and fitness following a hamstring problem that he will now be in the line-up for Saturday lunchtime’s trip to Inverness in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.
Lennon hopes that game will be enough to ready the player for the team’s Champions League last-16 meeting with Juventus, after he was sent home from Scotland’s Aberdeen training camp ahead of the national team’s friendly with Estonia last night when concerns were raised about the effect of playing on a heavy Pittodrie pitch.
Lennon told the Celtic View: “James is a brilliant player. You can see what he brings to us and he’s desperate to play. We just need to drip-feed him in now gently and we have to be careful there’s no reaction.
“He’s a wonderful talent and one of the best Scottish players we’ve produced for a long, long time. I think the world of him as a boy but as a footballer there’s so much he can offer.
“He’s been training great and desperate to get back in but the physios have been holding him back. We’ve had to listen to them but it was great to get him some game time.
“We have the game up in Inverness next and we expect him to play and have him ready for Juventus.
“It was hugely important to get him some game time on Sunday. He makes us better, he drives everyone on, he excites people and got his goal.
“There are not many people who would score that goal – his turn of pace and quality of the finish was fantastic. To have him back gives us an extra dimension.”
Meanwhile, new Celtic recruit Tom Rogic admits he still has to prove himself as a player – despite swapping the amateur game for a move to Parkhead in the space of a year.
The Australian forward arrived in Glasgow after securing a switch from A-League outfit Central Coast Mariners.
But his rise from the amateur leagues of Australia has been swift, as he only signed professional terms with the Mariners in January last year. The Australia international, however, insists he must now convince Lennon that he has the ability to back up his potential and secure a place in the starting line-up.
Rogic, 20, said: “The past year has been massive for myself. I signed my first professional contract in January last year, this is pretty much 12 months on, so I have done quite well since then.
“I have progressed at a fast rate so it’s been a great 12 months and hopefully I can continue to develop and go forward in my career.
“There were probably times when I doubted what was going to happen in my football career.
“The past 12 months have been great but it certainly hasn’t come without hard work. I know that. This is really just the beginning and I have a long way to go and a lot of things to work on before I can consider myself a good footballer.
“But I feel I am in the right hands and in the right place here at Celtic.
“It’s a step up from what I’m used to but something I feel I can adapt to and I’m just looking forward to developing and progressing here as a player, and hopefully I can contribute to the club’s success over time.
“I have had a big year, made my debut for the Socceroos, so to now sign for Celtic, I am really proud of it and I’m looking forward to getting started.”