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Return of Celtic skipper Scott Brown is huge lift for Bhoys

By Ronnie Esplin

John Collins has no worries over race row Celtic player Aleksandar Tonev ahead of their opening Europa League clash with Salzburg in Austria tonight.

Scottish FA compliance officer Vincent Lunny is looking into the allegation that the Bulgarian forward racially abused Aberdeen full-back Shay Logan during Saturday's Premiership fixture at Celtic Park, which the home side won 2-1 to register their first win in five games.

Afterwards, a Celtic spokesman said: "We have spoken to the player and he has stated that the accusation made is not true."

Speaking at Glasgow Airport before the Scottish champions flew out to Austria, Hoops assistant Collins said: "He will be fine for the game. The club has made a statement and so we will move forward."

Stand-in captain Charlie Mulgrew is out with a knee injury while winger James Forrest remains out with a hamstring injury.

Defender Mikael Lustig is out with a groin injury and Adam Matthews is missing with a calf injury, while new loan signing from Manchester City John Guidetti has to drop out as he was not registered in time.

Collins is glad to see the return of skipper Scott Brown, who made his first appearance of the season against Aberdeen after recovering from a hamstring injury.

He said: "It is great to have him back. Anyone who was at the game on Saturday or watched it on television, he brings so much experience, legs, power, skill and drives other players forward.

"It is like having two or three players back when Scott is back on the park."

The former Celtic midfielder is looking for the Bhoys to go all the way in the competition after being knocked out of the Champions League qualifiers.

He said: "I want to get to the final and win and if you ask the same question to the players, I am sure they will give you the same answer.

"There are a lot of good teams in the tournament but we will give it our best shot.

"We are all bitterly disappointed that we didn't qualify for the Champions League but you move on to the next challenge and the next challenge is Salzburg.

"It is a good challenge for us but we are confident of getting a result.

"I don't think a draw would be a bad result. We will have all the teams back at Celtic Park but we want to win every game."

Meanwhile, Rangers youngster Lewis Macleod insists the Ibrox side will just have to get used to playing in front of a half-empty stadium.

The Glasgow giants ran out to a crowd of just 15,208 as they took on Inverness on Tuesday night.

Disgruntled members of the Light Blues faithful stayed away as they showed their anger after another week of negative headlines.

Stories revealing the sale of stadium naming rights, an emergency share issue and directors meeting with convicted fraudsters on Interpol's most-wanted list were too much for many to take, leaving around 35,000 seats empty as Ally McCoist's side progressed to face Falkirk in the third round after a 1-0 win.

Matchwinner Macleod said: "It's just something that we have got to block out.

"It's always good to have a full stadium but, at the same time, you have got to block it out and do your thing. The fans that did come showed good support and that is the main thing."

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