Celtic manager Neil Lennon will throw James Forrest right back into action next week against Inverness in the hope of unleashing him against Juventus.
The 21-year-old made his first appearance for the Hoops since December in Sunday’s William Hill Scottish Cup fifth-round win over Raith Rovers.
The winger struck the second goal in his team’s 3-0 success at Stark’s Park and impressed his boss so much with his pace, intent and fitness following a hamstring problem that he will now be cast back into the Celtic line-up for this weekend’s trip to Inverness in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.
Lennon now hopes that game will be enough to ready the player for the team’s Champions League last-16 meeting with Juventus, after he was sent home from Scotland’s Aberdeen training camp ahead of the national team’s friendly with Estonia when concerns were raised about the effect of playing on a heavy Pittodrie pitch.
He told the Celtic View: “James is a brilliant player. You can see what he brings to us and he’s desperate to play.
“We just need to drip-feed him in now gently and we have to be careful there’s no reaction. He’s a wonderful talent and one of the best Scottish players we’ve produced for a long, long time.
“He’s been training great and desperate to get back in but the physios have been holding him back. We’ve had to listen to them but it was great to get him some game time.
“He makes us better, he drives everyone on, he excites people and got his goal. There are not many people who would score that goal — his turn of pace and quality of the finish was fantastic.
“To have him back gives us an extra dimension.”
Meanwhile, Inverness manager Terry Butcher insists Celtic will have one eye on the clash with the Italian league leaders because the players will be desperate to pin down a place.
Butcher is hoping Neil Lennon’s troops are distracted by the Juve clash this weekend.
Butcher also knows it could work against his team and he is wary that every Celtic player will be trying their utmost to earn a place for next week’s match.
Butcher, who is looking to lift Inverness following three straight losses, said: “It’s always the question; it is a good time to play Celtic or a bad time to play Celtic?
“Whatever team Neil selects, they’ll be trying like mad to hold that position down for the European match.”
Following a heavy home defeat to the current pacesetters back in August, Caley stunned Celtic in November when Billy McKay scored the only goal at Parkhead.
Butcher added: “I think they’ll be looking for revenge for the fact that we beat them down there and the fact that we’re second and they’re in first, they want to open up the gap even more.”