Leigh Griffiths’ Celtic return could come against Sarajevo

Leigh Griffiths is in contention to return to competitive action for Celtic in their opening Champions League qualifier against Sarajevo.

Leigh Griffiths is in contention to return to competitive action for Celtic in their opening Champions League qualifier against Sarajevo.

The striker, sidelined since last December after taking time off to address mental health issues, has rejoined the rest of the Celtic squad for the start of pre-season training this week.

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Griffiths has been praised by assistant manager John Kennedy who believes the 28-year-old could be ready to play a part in Celtic’s trip to Austria and Switzerland next week when they have three friendlies in preparation for the first leg of their Champions League first qualifying round tie in Sarajevo on 9 or 10 July.

“It’s possible Leigh could be involved in those games,” said Kennedy. “He has trained with us the last three days. We did a medical screen and a football session when we came back on Monday, a double session on Tuesday and a single session on Wednesday morning. He’s trained every minute of every session so that’s a very positive start for Leigh.

“He’s had a tough time in the last six months or so, so this is an important time. He has worked hard. In the latter part of last season he was doing a lot of individual work, to get back that base that he had lost.

“Now it’s all about minutes on the pitch and being on the grass. Again, he has started very positively. There won’t be a set timescale. We’ll manage it as we progress. If it’s right in the coming weeks that he is looking sharp enough to get on the pitch then we will certainly look to do that. Because a fully fit Leigh Griffiths is a big asset for us.”

Celtic’s striking options will be further boosted when Vakoun Bayo returns to full training next week. The Ivory Coast striker made just one substitute appearance for the Scottish champions after his £2 million move from Slovakian club Dunajska Streda in January before suffering a ruptured hamstring.

Central defender Jack Hendry, absent since February because of injury, will also rejoin the first team squad next week.

But it remains uncertain whether Kieran Tierney will regain fitness in time for the Champions League opener as the left-back continues his recovery from a double hernia operation.

“Kieran’s rehab will continue over the next couple of weeks and it’s one we’ll have to monitor,” added Kennedy. “He will be pushing to play but we’ll have to see how he feels on a daily basis.”

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Kennedy, meanwhile, is relaxed over the latest speculation linking Tierney with a move to the English Premier League where Arsenal are believed to be considering a move for the £20m-rated Scotland international.

“It has been the same for the last four transfer windows, hasn’t it?,” said Kennedy. “We don’t look into it too much.

“The positive is when players are being speculated about moving to bigger leagues it means obviously we have good players. We expect it every window.

“Kieran is cool about it. He’s a good type. He doesn’t let it affect him in any way and he is working hard behind the scenes.”