Hibs' Zemmama out for Celtic clash

HIBS' hopes of closing in on second-placed Celtic have been dealt a blow as Moroccan playmaker Merounae Zemmama has been ruled out of tonight's clash in Glasgow.

John Hughes had been hoping the midfielder would be fit to make the trip having missed Saturday's 5-1 hammering of Hamilton after suffering a recurrence of a hamstring injury which hampered him earlier in the season.

Hughes was forced to admit his frustration as he revealed Zemmama will again be missing for a game which, should Hibs win, would see them move to within two points of Tony Mowbray's side.

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Also absent tonight will be Ivory Coast defender Sol Bamba following his nation's surprise exit from the African Cup of Nations despite being the tournament favourites.

But, while Zemmama and Bamba are out, Celtic manager Mowbray identified Derek Riordan, Anthony Stokes and Colin Nish – who claimed all five goals against Accies between them – as a triple threat to his own team's ambition of catching SPL leaders and arch-rivals Rangers.

Mowbray, of course, knows Riordan well from his own spell at Easter Road and, although the Scotland striker spent an unhappy two years at Celtic under Gordon Strachan, his former boss still holds him in high regard.

He said: "Hibs carry a real goal threat. Riordan is a very clinical finisher, he always makes good contact with the ball.

"Nish, with his size and presence, always poses problems and Stokes has a good pedigree. He's had his spell in England and is a player who can score goals."

For his part, Hughes knows his side will have to be on top of their game if they are to come away from Parkhead with points in the bag and added: "Any time you go to Glasgow, it is always a difficult game because they will be trying to claw back as much as possible to Rangers and I am sure there will be plenty of questions asked of my team."

Meanwhile, Hughes has admitted his disappointment at missing out on Darren Barr after the Falkirk skipper agreed a pre-contract to join Hearts on a three-year contract in the summer.

Hughes brought Barr through at Falkirk and had been keen to bring him to Easter Road.

He said: "I wish Darren all the best. He is entitled to dowhatever he thinks is best and it's exactly the same for me, I have to look at what's out there and see what is the best for Hibs."