Hartley: Long-haul will not be a factor

Celtic midfielder Paul Hartley is confident jet-lag will not stop Japan midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura and Australia striker Scott McDonald from making the difference in tomorrow's Old Firm derby against Rangers. McDonald and Nakamura both returned to Glasgow on Friday after a gruelling midweek trip to Japan for a 2010 FIFA World Cup™ South Africa qualifier. While Nakamura played the entire game for Japan, McDonald - who scored the winner when the sides last met at Ibrox in December - sat frustrated on the Australia bench for 90 minutes.

Hartley is confident both players will be shake off their fatigue in time for a match that will play a key role in deciding the destiny of the Scottish Premier League title. Celtic are two points ahead of Rangers, but a win for Walter Smith's side at Parkhead would put them top with a home game against their bitter rivals still to come later this season.

"Scott will be fine. He knows what these games are all about, as you saw the last time when he scored the winner at Ibrox," Hartley said. "He's had a long trip during the week, but that won't matter. We've had Naka on that trip too, and he played the whole 90 minutes. Like Scott, Naka will be ready.

The boys are back now and the session was excellent. We're all fit and raring to go. 
Celtic midfielder Paul Hartley

"A lot of players having been away on international duty this week, so Friday was the first day back in training," Hartley added. "Players being away on international duty is part and parcel of the game. You can't help that. The boys are back now and the session was excellent. We're all fit and raring to go."

Hartley also expects a key contribution from Willo Flood, if the boyhood Celtic fan makes his debut against Rangers. Flood, who arrived from Dundee United in the January transfer window, was cup-tied for last week's Scottish Cup win over Queen's Park at Parkhead. The former Manchester City midfielder is in Gordon Strachan's squad for this weekend's game though, and Hartley believes he will not be fazed by the biggest fixture in the Scottish football calendar.

"I think Willo has the right type of character for the Glasgow derby," Hartley said. "I've played against him a lot and I've seen him up close in training. He can play in this side. He's a terrific footballer and he's got a bit of dig about him. Willo grew up as a Celtic fan and knows what it's all about. He knows what it takes in these games."

With midfielder Shaun Maloney in doubt with a recurrence of a hamstring injury and skipper Stephen McManus back from a knee injury, Celtic boss Gordon Strachan will wait until the last minute to finalise his starting line-up.