Brendan Rodgers is confident Oliver Burke will be fit and ready to spearhead Celtic’s attack against Valencia in the Europa League on Thursday night.
The on-loan West Bromwich Albion forward limped out of Celtic’s 5-0 Scottish Cup win over St Johnstone with an ankle injury, having played a key role in a dominant display which took the tournament holders into the quarter-finals.
Rodgers has been thrilled by the impact Burke has had since joining Celtic in January and believes his pace, when utilised properly, can trouble any defence.
With Odsonne Edouard not yet fully match-fit and Leigh Griffiths still absent, Burke is in pole position to play up front in the first leg of the Europa League last 32 tie at Celtic Park.
“Oli took a knock to his ankle but we hope he’ll be okay,” said Celtic manager Rodgers. “You see his intensity and the threat he gives us. He was absolutely fantastic today. He should be okay for Thursday.
“Oli has shown and started to progress as we thought he could. He has wonderful attributes and his pressing sets a real tone.
“He’ll be difficult to play against for anyone because the one thing that frightens defenders is pace. The speed he showed today is frightening really. It’s a joy to watch a Scottish player with that physicality and quality. There are things that he continues to work on, but he’s doing exceptionally well and he has to keep improving.”
Burke provided assists for two of Scott Sinclair’s goals in a hat-trick for the winger, with strikes from Scott Brown and James Forrest completing the rout.
It saw Celtic set a new all-time Scottish record of 24 consecutive victories in domestic cup ties.
“I only mentioned that to the players after the game,” said Rodgers. “We were playing St Johnstone for the fifth time this season and the third time in a very short period. So I told the players it would reveal a lot about their mentality and character.
“Because we’d won the previous four games, if they didn’t work, weren’t focused and weren’t hungry, then it could have been really difficult.
“But they showed their mentality and quality and I told them after the game they had broken another record as a consequence. It’s another great tribute to how they have been working for the last two and a half years.
“It was another good performance today, we didn’t give away too much. We know it’s a big step up in terms of quality on Thursday night against Valencia.
“But I can’t complain. We are nearly into mid-February, we haven’t conceded a goal since the winter break and the players are working very hard. They look fresh and are playing at a really good level. So today was good preparation for Thursday.”
Celtic will re-assess the fitness of Olivier Ntcham on Monday after the French midfielder, initially named among the substitutes yesterday, pulled out before kick-off with a hamstring complaint.
St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright was left to rue his team’s poor start to the match, going 2-0 down inside the first nine minutes, but had no complaints at the outcome.
“We were beaten by a far better side,” said Wright. “We made it hard for ourselves with the start that we had. It was important that we stayed in the game as long as possible. But I can draw a line under it and hopefully the players can as well.
“There is no disgrace in being beaten by a team who are wiping the floor with everybody at the minute. They’ve just got better players and we have to accept that, draw a line under it and move on.”