Lubo Moravcik believes the return of Kyogo Furuhashi could be key to Celtic winning the Treble.
The Japanese striker was out for almost four months with a hamstring injury, but made his return off the bench in last weekend’s win against St Johnstone.
Furuhashi was superb in the first half of the season, and was the difference in the Premier Sports League Cup Final win over Hibs.
Moravcik, who won the Treble with Martin O’Neill’s side in 2001, insists Kyogo has the class to help the Hoops sweep the board domestically.
But the Slovakian also knows that today’s Scottish Cup semi-final opponents, Rangers, will be dangerous and feeling good after reaching the Europa League semi-finals.
Moravcik, signed by Jozef Venglos for £300,000 in 1998, said: “It was a great sight for Celtic to see Kyogo back playing.
“What an ovation he received from the Celtic fans. They clearly missed him.
“Don’t misunderstand me. The team played very well without him and got to the top of the league – but he is very special.
“Talented players of his ability don’t come around too often.
“He has great skill and vision. He scores and picks a pass. He lights up a football pitch. He is a matchwinner.
“It could well be that he starts at Hampden. Why not? I think he likes playing there.
“If Celtic win, they are very, very close to the Treble, and that would be an incredible achievement.
“You always look for things to give you an advantage, and Kyogo’s selection could be the thing. Rangers won’t want to face him.
“When we won the Treble in 2001, it came on the back of a disappointing season the previous year.
“We lost the league by more than 20 points to Rangers. But we turned it around when Martin came in.
“Rangers won the title by 25 points last season, so it could well be that a similar turnaround as happened 21 years ago.
“We had Henrik Larsson back after he’d missed six or seven months with a broken leg.
“That was a massive boost, and he also struck up a brilliant partnership with Chris Sutton.
“The first trophy has been won and it looks like the Premiership title is going to be won. That leaves the Scottish Cup.”
Moravcik has been impressed with Rangers in Europe, and rates Giovanni van Bronckhorst.
He said: “The win against Braga was very good for Rangers. They showed strength, ability and character to win that game.
“But they will be tired, and that is only natural.
“It will be interesting to see the selection that van Bronckhorst makes for this game.
“He will consider making a couple of changes but won’t want to upset the rhythm too much.
“This is an important game for Rangers. They have lost twice to Celtic this year, and Giovanni will be determined to win this time.
“I think he is a very good manager. But he is up against a very talented manager in Ange Postecoglou. It makes for a great spectacle on Sunday.
“I was in Glasgow last week, and I could feel the supporters really getting ready for it.
“There is a confidence about the Celtic fans just now, and that is understandable. They are ready for this game.
“The team is looking very strong, and having Joe Hart in goal has been great. What a signing he has been.
“Callum McGregor has been brilliant, too, and I’ve heard a few people say that he may well be the Player of the Year in Scotland.
“He has developed into a terrific midfielder, and also a fine captain. He deserves all the success that is coming his way.”
Moravcik fancies a Celtic victory today, but doesn’t expect it to be easy.
He said: “It takes incredible skill, talent and energy to beat Rangers. It doesn’t just happen. Things need to be right.
“The keeper needs to be ready to make saves, and the defenders need to be solid and aware.
“The midfielders need to work hard, and limit the space for their opponents. They also need to be creative.
“And the strikers need to be clinical against Rangers.
“It takes the full package to beat them. I know it is never easy.
“But Celtic can do it. If they win this game, then they will have taken a huge step towards winning the Treble.
“Considering where they were eight or nine months ago, that would be unbelievable.”
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