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This time Celtic will get across the line, says Stokes

By Ronnie Esplin

Anthony Stokes believes Celtic are better equipped for the “business end” of the season than last year as they close in on the first part of a possible treble.

Celtic face Kilmarnock in the Scottish Communities League Cup final on Sunday after extending an unbeaten domestic run to 27 games with a 4-0 William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final win over Dundee United.

Celtic lost the final 2-1 to Rangers last season and went on to be pipped to the title by their Old Firm rivals after losing the advantage at Inverness four games from the finishing line.

But Stokes feels his team have improved from 12 months ago — and developed a clinical edge that recently saw them win 20 domestic games on the trot.

“We are a different team this year, I think we're a better team,” he said.

“We have tried to learn from last season and we're trying to push ourselves even further. We didn't get over the line last year and lost in the final of this tournament.

“We want to rectify some of the mistakes of last year.”

Celtic can clinch the Clydesdale Bank Premier League at Ibrox on March 25 if both Rangers and Motherwell drop points beforehand.

But all talk of the treble has been banned.

“Every trophy is important to us,” the former Arsenal, Sunderland and Hibernian striker said.

“We take it as seriously as the league or the other cups. It's massive for us.

“It's the business end of the season. We've done really well so far but it could all count for nothing if we don't keep our high standards that we've set over the last few months.”

Stokes has not started against Rangers since his Old firm debut in October 2010, was an unused substitute in last year's final and only played the last quarter of the Scottish Cup final win over Motherwell.

“I'm not expecting to start at all — the gaffer changes it up quite a bit,” he said. “He'll be putting out a team to win. Obviously I'd like to think I'd come into the equation.”

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