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Celtic's Leigh Griffiths aiming to net a key Euro role

By Ronnie Esplin

Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths is hoping to make it impossible for Ronny Deila to omit him from Champions League line-ups by scoring in the Ladbrokes Premiership.

With Nadir Ciftci serving the third game of a six-match ban for biting former Dundee midfielder Jim McAlister, Griffiths is likely to lead the line against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park tonight.

But Ciftci has started all four of Celtic's Champions League qualifiers since his summer move from Dundee United.

Griffiths has scored goals at Stjarnan and Ross County while hitting five in friendly games but he is still trying to improve his hold-up play to get the nod in Europe.

But he hopes goals against Kilmarnock and Inverness on Saturday could put him in the frame for a start against Malmo in the play-offs next Wednesday.

Griffiths said: "Every game I play I want to score goals and if I score goals it's going to be difficult for the manager to leave me out. I go into every game looking to score goals, whether it's league, cup, Champions League or whatever.

"If I'm playing I'm delighted but if not I'm on the bench and I'm raring to come on. You have always got to be on your toes, especially at a big club like Celtic. But whenever the manager needs me I am ready to go.

"Last season I wasn't in squads but this season I am starting in games. Obviously the main target is to start European games but it's the manager's decision and if he wants to start with Nadir, that's fine by me."

Griffiths scored 16 goals in his final 20 domestic games last season but he recognises that different qualities are needed on the European stage.

"It's always different, you are playing against top players in the Champions League," the 24-year-old said.

"No disrespect to the SPFL but it's a step up in class.

"Especially when we play away from home, teams are going to attack us more. As a striker, especially playing that lone striker role, you need to hold the ball up, and your link-up play and touch have got to be on point, or else teams will punish you and you are out of Europe as quickly as you went in.

"Regardless of who you are playing against, it's a tireless job. You have to make unselfish runs and do your bit for the team."

Celtic are strong favourites to win against a Kilmarnock side who have lost six goals without reply in their opening two games.

But, days after assistant manager John Collins upset some Premiership rivals by branding them not quick enough or clever enough to expose holes in their formation, Griffiths is taking nothing for granted.

"When we go to visit teams at their home park, they tend to raise their game against us. I'm sure (Kilmarnock manager) Gary Locke will have them fired up," he said.

"They have had a disappointing start to their season but they will see Celtic coming to Rugby Park and will be trying to get a positive result against us."

Charlie Mulgrew is back in the Celtic squad for the visit to Kilmarnock after missing the start of the Premiership season with knee and groin problems.

Scott Brown (tight hamstring) and Stuart Armstrong (groin) could return and will be back for the weekend at the latest.

Belfast Telegraph


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