Mjallby stunned by Celtic turnaround

JOHAN MJALLBY admits Celtic’s surge to the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League has taken him by surprise.

The champions’ dip in form in recent weeks has coincided with the resurgence of Celtic and their 1-0 win over Rangers at Parkhead on Wednesday night took them two points clear of their Ibrox rivals.

Joe Ledley’s second-half header completed a remarkable transformation at the top of the table as on November 5, the Hoops were trailing Rangers by 15 points, albeit Neil Lennon’s side had two games in hand.

The Celtic assistant manager is glad to be leading from the front and looking back at nine successive SPL wins.

However, he wants to make sure the most recent positive taken from the Old Firm game is not negated against Dunfermline tonight.

“I would rather have the lead, obviously, because there is usually more pressure on you when you have to chase teams,” said the former Celtic defender.

“I think both teams can live with that anyway. It’s only two points and there is a long way to go. But it has been a very big turnaround.

“Two months ago I would have probably not believed you if you told me we would be two points ahead at this time.

“We would rather be in this position but we still need to keep our feet on the ground.

“There is a long way to go and we need to keep on going and keep the momentum.”

Celtic travel to East End Park without Beram Kayal in their squad after the Israel midfielder was ruled out for at least a month with the ankle injury he sustained during the Old Firm win.

Manager Neil Lennon has options though with Scott Brown able to tuck in after starting at right midfield against Rangers, while Ledley netted his winner while playing at left-back.

Ki Sung-yueng could also come back into the team after starting on the bench against Rangers despite showing some good form in recent weeks.

Mjallby added before the trip to Fife: “We need to be careful. It is even more important for the staff and the manager to make sure that the players need to be as focused as they were on Wednesday.

“There is no pressure on them, they are going to go out there with a lot of freedom.

“We are playing really well at the moment and the confidence is there but as I said, it’s a case of making sure the players don’t get ahead of themselves.”

One interesting statistic that emerged from Celtic’s win over the Light Blues was that the average age of the home side’s starting 11 was just under 23, which delighted Mjallby.

“It’s great,” he said. “It shows we have been signing good young players and hopefully we have done our job in improving them which is good for the future of the club.”

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