Stokes Euro blow for Hoops

Stokes Euro blow for Hoops
Anthony Stokes

Celtic suffered a blow when sickly striker Anthony Stokes was sent home ahead of the club’s flight to Romania ahead of their Europa League clash with Astra Giurgiu.

Stokes turned up for the flight at Glasgow Airport despite feeling unwell and club medical staff decided he was too ill to travel.

The last-minute development is a huge blow to manager Ronny Deila, who is already missing top goalscorer John Guidetti as well as injured attacking players Kris Commons and James Forrest.

Guidetti has scored nine goals in nine games since arriving on loan from Manchester City but the deal was not completed in time for him to be registered in time for Europe.

Stokes has started the last two Europa League games, including the 2-1 home win win over Astra which saw his fellow forward Stefan Scepovic score. Leigh Griffiths is another option for the Norwegian manager.

Another attacking player who is available to Deila is Aleksandar Tonev, who missed the weekend win over Inverness after an appeal against his ban for racial abuse was not submitted in time.

The winger was suspended by the Scottish Football Association for seven matches for using ”offensive, insulting and abusive language of a racist nature” towards Aberdeen defender Shay Logan when the two teams met in September.

Assistant manager John Collins confirmed the Parkhead club would appeal but was reluctant to be drawn on the issue.

He said: “I don’t want to get involved in that. I am not allowed to comment. We will back Aleksandar.

“I am led to believe the appeal will go in.

“Training has been normal. Obviously he is disappointed with the verdict but he has to focus on his football.

“There is no concern, he will be available. He will be desperate to play, like all the rest of the players.”

Tonev’s national team have also backed the on-loan Aston Villa winger. The Bulgarian governing body hit out the at the SFA on Tuesday for punishing the 24-year-old without evidence beyond Logan’s word.

A statement read: “In connection with the punishment for racism, which Bulgarian international Aleksandar Tonev received from the Scottish Football Association, the Bulgarian Football Union would like to express its full support for the player.

“We join the position of his club Celtic and express willingness to use every possible set of international football laws to help reveal the truth. And in this case it is undeniable – a young and talented Bulgarian footballer is charged and punished for an offence he allegedly did not commit and no evidence of his guilt.

“With the Bulgarian national team, Aleksandar Tonev has always been a role model, he displays his heart and soul on the field and has never violated the principles of fair play in the game of football. So he will continue to be part of the national team of Bulgaria.

“The Bulgarian Football Union strongly condemns all forms of racism and xenophobia in football stadiums and will continue its policy of zero tolerance for such events. In the case of Alexander Tonev however, we demand to see evidence that he had committed the act of which he is accused. Otherwise, we will consider that the penalty is biased and exaggerated.”

Meanwhile, Craig Gordon looks set to return in goal for Celtic on Thursday after missing the 1-0 home Scottish Premiership win over Inverness after feeling some pain in his knee.

Gordon is one of the reasons Celtic sit level with Salzburg on seven points from three games at the top of Group D, following their 2-1 win over Astra in Glasgow last month.

Collins said: “He is back training yesterday and available for selection.

“There are no easy games in Europe, there are no poor teams and the keeper has been called upon and done very well.

“They have some good football players, they move the ball well and if we are not on our toes they will create chances.

“A win would put us in an excellent position, with 10 points, a very strong position going into the last two games but I don’t think anything would be guaranteed.”

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