Celtic: Pukki and Biton set for home debuts

Celtic manager Neil Lennon casts an eye over training. Picture: SNS
Celtic manager Neil Lennon casts an eye over training. Picture: SNS
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TEEMU Pukki and Nir Biton are both in line to make their home debuts for Celtic this afternoon as the Scottish champions look to shrug off their midweek disappointment in Milan.

Neil Lennon is set to rotate his squad over the next four days, with today’s Premiership fixture against St Johnstone followed by another home game on Tuesday night against Morton in the third round of the League Cup.

Finnish international striker Pukki scored on his debut as a substitute in last Saturday’s 3-1 win over Hearts at Tynecastle, then appeared off the bench again as Celtic lost their Champions League Group H opener in Italy on Wednesday night. Israeli international midfielder Biton made his first appearance for the club as a late replacement in the San Siro.

Along with Dutch winger Derk Boerrigter, the newcomers to Lennon’s squad have been warned by the manager they will have to earn a regular place in his starting line-up.

“Boerrigter, Biton and Pukki all have more to come obviously because they’ve not had game time or much of an opportunity so far,” said Lennon.

“But they will come in and make us better. They have to. They are going to have to play well to get into the team and I want them to do that. The St Johnstone game gives me an opportunity to play one or two of them but there aren’t going to be wholesale changes from Wednesday night.

“We have a League Cup game on Tuesday where we might see a bit more of the new boys.”

Lennon does not anticipate any adverse reaction from his team to their unfortunate 2-0 defeat in Milan when a good performance was undone by two late goals.

“I hope not,” he said. “You never know until on the day but they are in good spirits and they can take a lot from their performance in midweek.”

Lennon is looking forward to pitting his wits against his former Northern Ireland team-mate, St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright.

“I know Tommy very well personally and I am delighted for him that he has got the opportunity to take over from Steve Lomas,” said Lennon.

“St Johnstone have been very consistent over the last couple of seasons. They have a very good team ethic, they work hard for each other and they have strikers who can upset us, so it is a good game for us to come back to.”