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‘WELCOME BACK, SKIPPER,’ DEMBELE

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MOUSSA DEMBELE will welcome back skipper Scott Brown to the Celtic engine room for tomorrow night’s Europa League second leg against Zenit St Petersburg in Russia.

The Hoops midfield inspiration missed the goalless draw with St Johnstone at the weekend as he served a one-match suspension.

His drive and energy were missing components as the champions struggled to break down the Perth side’s resistance.

Dembele’s praised Brown’s influence and said: “He is our captain and he knows what we have to do.

“He is always out there and involved in everything on the pitch, but we all know that we have a job to do.

“The reason why I think we have been a successful team is because we work for one another. That is what we will have to do against Zenit.

“It will not be an easy game. It will be another tough 90 minutes, but we want to go and put on a performance and see where it takes us.

“Hopefully, as a team we can play the way we did in the first-leg. Getting the same result would be nice, too!”

The French Under-21 international striker also insisted his focus is totally on Celtic in the run-in to the campaign.

Dembele endured a difficult January as the transfer window interfered with speculation about a big-money exit from Parkhead.

He added: “It might have looked to other people outside that I was affected by speculation, but that was never the case.

“It is not something that is new to me.

“I have been in this position many times in many career. For me, it is always about playing football and scoring goals.

“Nothing else matters to me. That is what my focus is. It is what it is now and it is what it will be until the end of the season.

“It has been difficult with the injuries, but every player has injuries. It is just a part of football.

“However, I feel good. I feel fit. I feel positive. I am always positive and I just want to go out and play.”

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Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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