Celtic’s Patrick Roberts ready to move in for the kill

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The last time Patrick Roberts returned from injury, he was back in time to make a cameo appearance in the League Cup final as Celtic completed the first leg of their ambitious journey towards a second successive treble.

The 12 minutes played in that game earned him a start in the following league match. But he lasted only 11 minutes before hobbling off, a troublesome hamstring enforcing another even longer lay-off.

Patrick Roberts is focused on ensuring that Celtic's lead does not slip away over the closing weeks of the season. Photograph: Craig Foy/SNS Group

Patrick Roberts is focused on ensuring that Celtic's lead does not slip away over the closing weeks of the season. Photograph: Craig Foy/SNS Group

That was back in November and, after a frustrating battle back to fitness, the creative player, who impressed with his wizardry on the wing and weighed in with 11 goals as Celtic proved invincible last season, is ready to make his return in another notable fixture.

The trip to Ibrox this afternoon will not end with a medal ceremony but could prove useful in quashing burgeoning hopes in that neck of the woods that Celtic could be challenged for the Premiership title.

While Rangers have talked about closing the gap and putting up a fight as the season nears its conclusion, Roberts reflects the approach taken by the Parkhead side. Asked how they react to talk of a potential title race, he responds: “We don’t really. We just take every game as it comes. The next game and then the next game and then see where it lands.”

They would prefer, it appears, to do their talking on the field, where Roberts hopes to have an impact.

“It will be good,” said the 21-year-old Manchester City loanee. “It’s another game, one of my first back, if I play, so that’s exciting. The aim is to get the three points.

“It’s a big game, they always are, but we want to play our game no matter the opposition. You just enjoy playing in the games and let our football do the talking.”

With only 12 appearances this term and having missed out on the Europa League games, he hopes to channel the months of pent-up frustrations into an inspiring final flurry.

“They are good games. It was disappointing to go out because I would have liked the chance to play in that competition. It’s all about kicking on for the rest of the season, trying to win the league and the cup. Like I said, I’ve got to kick on. There are games left and hopefully I will be fit and finish strongly.”

Having returned to his parent club in the summer, his second loan period in Glasgow was supposed to advance his personal ambitions and bolster Celtic’s hopes of defending all three domestic trophies. His absence therefore has been a blow, softened only by the form of James Forrest on that flank.

But with two of the three pieces of silverware still up for grabs and Rangers talking up their chances of usurping them in both competitions, Roberts says Celtic are ready to mount a strong finish to the campaign.

“It’s always exciting winning trophies. Trebles are hard to come by and we have that opportunity again. We have to keep focused and concentrated because it could easily slip away. We have a good group of lads and will concentrate on the games coming up.”

This afternoon’s fixture is the most pressing. Involved in five of the six head-to-heads last term, including the two 5-1 triumphs at Celtic Park and Ibrox, that served as bookends to the season’s rivalry, Roberts also played in the 2-0 victory at Ibrox earlier in the season. But he was sidelined for the 0-0 draw in December and wants to immerse himself in the action today and return to winning ways.

“It’s very fierce and very competitive but I enjoy it, the whole occasion. They are great for me personally. All the boys enjoy it.”