Craig Gordon backs Cork's Eoghan O'Connell to shine

Craig Gordon backs Cork's Eoghan O'Connell to shine
Eoghan O'Connell celebrating his goal last Saturday for Celtic.

Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon believes defender Eoghan O'Connell is ready for his first taste of European football in Astana tonight.

The 20-year-old Corkman, who had brief loan spells at Oldham and hometown club Cork City last season, is set to make his Champions League debut in the first-leg of the third qualifier in Kazakhstan.

Hoops boss Brendan Rodgers saw his central defensive options further limited after Erik Sviatchenko picked up a groin injury last Friday with 18-year-old Kristoffer Ajer also out with a hand injury.

Rodgers is also without long-term injured centre backs Jozo Simunovic and Dedryck Boyata while new signing Kolo Toure remained in Glasgow to catch up on his fitness.

Gordon noted that O'Connell played and scored in the 1-1 International Champions Cup draw against Leicester City on Saturday - he also notched in the penalty shoot-out at Celtic Park which the English champions won 6-5 - and claimed that he is ready for the step-up.

"His last performance was exceptional," said the 33-year-old. "He was one of our best players against the champions of England.

"So if you can come through that and look as good he did in that game, there is no reason why he can't step into a Champions League qualifier and perform just as well."

The Scotland keeper expects O'Connell and the rest of the Celtic team to be tested by the Kazakh side, who reached the Champions League last season.

"It will be very difficult," said Gordon. "This team qualified for the Champions League last season. They are definitely going to cause us problems.

"We have already had a look at some video footage and they have some very good players who can cause us problems on the counter-attack.

"They have some good qualities that we have to watch out for.

"We are going to have to defend very well at times and try to keep the ball so it is going to be a big test.

"But we have confidence in our own abilities."

Rodgers is similarly confident about O'Connell.

He said: "He is a good size, first an foremost he wants to defend and in the short period I have worked with him, he is good in the air.

"He has a brain for football, he understands the game very well for a young player and importantly he plays the game well.

"For a young player, if they show those qualities I never have any fears of putting him in."


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