Ange Postecoglou admits Celtic’s fitness levels are not ideal ahead of their crucial Champions League qualifying clash with Midtjylland on Tuesday night.
Since arriving in Scotland the Greek-Australian boss has been busy trying to assemble a squad which is still light on numbers as he stated at his pre-match Zoom media conference: “If we are going to challenge on all fronts we are going to need a strong squad and at the moment we don’t have that”.
And those players he does have at his disposal are all at various levels of fitness ahead of the first-leg visit of the Danish outfit in what will be his first competitive game as Hoops boss.
Postecoglou was speaking with regards Leigh Griffiths being back in contention after Police Scotland said it had established “no criminality” after carrying out a “full assessment” on claims the 30-year-old exchanged improper messages with a 15-year-old girl as well as another teen girl on social media, as he outlined the general disparity in fitness levels.
He said: “He is like a few of them, he is still building into it. No one has had an ideal preparation, it is just the challenges we have.
“We have had guys coming in at different times, whether that was because they had different end dates (to last season) others had to quarantine, others were on international duty.
“They are sort of all at different levels but what I do know is that we worked them really hard the last week to try to get them all up to a certain level.
“I don’t think any of them are at the fitness they need to be at for what’s ahead but I am confident that all of them are in a good enough condition to put in a good performance tomorrow night.”
Postecoglou was pleased to be working with the majority of his squad on Monday for the first time.
Ryan Christie, Nir Bitton and Ismaila Soro returned after overcoming niggles while James Forrest is back available having had to self-isolate after being identified as a close contact of a positive Covid-19 case.
However, Kristoffer Ajer and Olivier Ntcham will not be used against Midtjylland.
The Norway defender has had a fitness issue but he has been heavily linked with a move to Brentford while there has been speculation about the future of French midfielder Ntcham, who was sent out on loan to Marseille in the second part of last season.
Postecoglou said: “I am picking players who are available and have both the physical and mental mindset to play.
“The ones who aren’t listed are obviously not ready for what we need to encounter tomorrow night. My focus is on the guys who are on that list.
“There are so many moving parts at the moment that I am trying to be as disciplined as I can to focus on what’s in my control because ultimately tomorrow night is the most important thing and I am focusing on people who are contributing to that.”