Celtic manager Neil Lennon feels several key players will benefit from playing in Saturday’s goalless draw with Livingston as they prepare for their latest Hampden clash with Aberdeen.
The Hoops suffered a minor blow in their bid to wrap up the Ladbrokes Premiership title as Livingston, and goalkeeper Liam Kelly in particular, put on an impressive defensive show at Parkhead.
Lennon’s side lost some tempo after the interval but he took some positives after the game.
Tom Rogic made his first Celtic start of the year after a knee injury and Ryan Christie continued his comeback from a hamstring injury after netting against St Mirren days earlier. Defender Filip Benkovic also got on the park in the second half as he works his way back to fitness.
The Celtic manager has given himself more options for next Sunday’s William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final and, with last weekend’s win over Rangers all but securing the title, the Hampden clash could be the key game in the champions’ bid for a treble treble.
Lennon said: “I was looking for the likes of Rogic, Christie, Benkovic to get game time.
“We have rotated the squad a lot this week, we made four changes the other night, more changes today and changed formation as well just to freshen things up.
“The likes of (Olivier) Ntcham had a long time out and he’s played two games, we had Jozo (Simunovic) coming back as well.
“It’s been difficult to get continuity in team selection but three games in six days has been a big ask for the players. I had to make a few changes for the benefit of the long term.
“It will be good to have a couple of days off to rest and recover and then focus on the semi-final.”
Christie forced two of a string of saves from Kelly and the midfielder hopes to have played himself into contention for the semi-final.
The former Inverness player, who netted the Betfred Cup final winner against the Dons, said: “In every game against Aberdeen this season they’ve made it very hard for us and they’re well known for that. They go man v man, so you have to try to work harder than them and that’s not easy.
“We’ll work as hard as we can to prepare and find a good structure.
“I hope to start the game. I’d love to be involved. Everyone wants to play in semi-finals, especially at Hampden.
“It’s a great game for everyone to look forward to and I know everyone in the squad will be up for it.”
Livingston secured their first point at Celtic Park in their history and moved on to 42 points for the season.
Manager Gary Holt said: “We are not resting on our laurels, we want to kick on. We want to get to 50 points. That’s the wee mini goal I have set them. I think we can achieve that.”