Dorus de Vries: Injury-ravaged Celtic have the squad to cope with Zenit St Petersburg Europa League showdowns

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DORUS de Vries today played down fears about the Celtic injury situation ahead of the Europa League meetings with Zenit St Petersburg and insisted the Parkhead club had a strong enough squad to cope.

De Vries and his team mates crashed to a 1-0 defeat to Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on Saturday after first Dedryck Boyata and then Kristoffer Ajer suffered injuries and were forced to leave the field.

Brendan Rodgers’s side ended up playing a makeshift three man backline comprising new signing Jack Hendry, midfielder Nir Bitton and left back Kieran Tierney in the Ladbrokes Premiership match.

It is a far from ideal situation for the Scottish champions to be in with the first leg of the Europa League last 32 double header to be played at Celtic Park next Thursday evening.

However, the Dutchman, who has himself taken over from Craig Gordon after the Scotland keeper suffered a serious knee injury last month, is confident that the Glasgow club have the resources to handle it.

Jozo Simunovic, who was left out of the squad at the weekend due to the game being played on an artificial surface, and the keeper believes that Hendry, who only joined last week from Dundee, can make the step up if required.

“Every injury is not nice on the individual or the team, but we have good players here and real squad depth,” said De Vries. “There are players who have come in here and will contribute and get better and better. There is a real good group.

“Jack Hendry looks a real good player. He only trained the day before Kilmarnock, he is young and has so much to improve with his potential. He’s good on the ball, he’s strong and he is fast. It’s a good move for him to come here.

“He comes to a great environment in terms of professionalism, a winning mentality, so he can only contribute to that.”

De Vries is hopeful he can help Celtic get back to winning ways by keeping a clean sheet in their William Hill Scottish Cup fifth round match against their top flight rivals Partick Thistle at Parkhead on Saturday despite the lack of games he has played.

The 37-year-old revealed he has been helped slot back into the first team by coach Stevie Woods and the man he has taken over from – his fellow goalkeeper Gordon.

“As a goalkeeper, you carry a great responsibility and you never want to be beaten,” he said. “You don’t want to let in a goal at any time.

“You want to be there for your team and, at that time, we had a big run going on and you just want to make sure that you’ve done well enough to keep that run going.

“But it’s the same now – my job doesn’t change. I still hate conceding goals and I want to play well and show what I’m capable of. I don’t want to let anyone down.

“Of course, Craig has helped me. I think we’ve shown in the last year and a half that we’re supportive of each other – in the goalkeeping union, you have to be that way, especially when you have so many games.

“Our schedule since I’ve been here has been so busy – it’s madness. So we need to help each other because there’s a lot to play for.”



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