CELTIC centre-back Stephen Welsh admits he is an Erik Sviatchenko copycat.

The 21-year-old defender studied and learned from the ex-Hoops star who will line up against the Hoops in the heart of the FC Midtjylland rearguard in the first leg of the Champions League second round qualifier at Parkhead a week tonight.

Welsh is an admitted fan of the Danish international who was linked with a shock return to Glasgow last month.

The youngster revealed: “I was training in the Invincible season and Erik was almost a mainstay in that team. He was excellent. I’d watch him in training and then playing at the weekend. We’re a similar height – he wasn’t the tallest – so I could see what he did and how he used his body.

“I’m just looking forward to getting these pre-season games under my belt for match fitness then into the Champions League qualifiers and the new season.

GOOD EXAMPLE…Erik Sviatchenko was monitored by Stephen Welsh.  

“Everybody wants to play in these games. It’s the highest level of club competition against the best players. We’ll go into these games looking to win and with a lot of confidence.

“They are big games early on, but Callum McGregor, James Forrest and the other experienced guys are used to that. They’ve played in tough countries against tough teams.”

Welsh, speaking to the Daily Record, added: “It’s about trying to start again. I’m still young, but I need to kick on now. I’ve got a good base level. It’s the start of a new era, the gaffer has come in and been excellent so far.

“I’m really enjoying his training just now. He wants us to attack and play good football. That’s all you want as a Celtic player.”

Welsh made 21 appearances in an unsettled defence last season as the team lurched through a catastrophic campaign. He began the term at right-back before being drafted into the centre of the rearguard that was leaking goals at an alarming rate.

ON THE BALL…Stephen Welsh is ready to play his part in a crucial campaign.

Shane Duffy’s £2million loan switch from Brighton just did not work out for whatever reason and, of course, Celtic’s cause wasn’t helped by the absence with a back injury to Christopher Jullien who returned, played a handful of games and then collided with a goal post in the 3-0 win over Dundee United at Parkhead on December 30 which ruled him out for the remainder of the campaign. His comeback date is set for October.

Kristoffer Ajer was also moved inside to help out while Israel international duo Nir Bitton and Hatem Abd Elhamed were makeshift centre-backs on several occasions.

It remains to be seen what Postecoglou plans to do in this crucial part of his line-up with the Norwegian already stating he wants to quit the Hoops in this transfer window which has attracted bids from newly-promoted Premier League outfits Norwich City and Brentford while Bundesliga giants Bayer Leverkusen, who splashed £11.8million on Jeremie Frimpong in January, are also monitoring the situation.

Welsh looks like playing a pivotal role for the team in the new season. It sounds as though he is ready for the challenge.


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