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ERIK PRAISES JOZO AND SETS HIS SIGHTS ON LIONS RECORD

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ERIK SVIATCHENKO is adamant he and Jozo Simunovic can flourish in the heart of the Celtic defence.
The Danish international has taken heart from the words of first-team coach John Kennedy who has claimed Torino would be wasting their time making a fresh offer for the Croat next month.

The Serie A side remain keen on the Under-21 centre-half, having seen a £3.5million move collapse in August when they tried to renegotiate terms at the last minute.

However, a lot has changed in the intervening four months – not least Simunovic’s emergence as a top-quality back-four operator.
Recovery from a long-term knee injury initially prevented him from making any substantial impression at Parkhead after Ronny Deila bought him from Dinamo Zagreb in the summer of 2015.
Now, though, the 22-year-old’s defensive double-act with Sviatchenko forms the bedrock of a side seeking to extend its unbeaten domestic record when they face Partick Thistle in the east end of Glasgow tonight.
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Sviatchenko said: “A partnership develops over time and Jozo and myself have only been playing regularly together for around four months.
“I hope Jozo will stay and I think he will stay, so I’m not too concerned. I’ve been in a lot of partnerships throughout my career and this is one of the best.

“We complement each other well. He is never flustered and takes chances in his game — and nine out of ten times, it goes in his favour.

“Jozo is also good with the ball and it’s all calculated. It’s a good combination of defensive aggression — we’re both quite brave — and also getting forward.

“But it’s about more than just Jozo and me. I must acknowledge the team around me, who do so well, especially Craig Gordon, who deserves a lot of credit.

“Craig gives out that calmness. He’s always there and saves the ball. The way he manages the ball just now is at a really high level.

“For the team and everyone, it’s important we keep the momentum and to do that, we need to keep as many players as possible.

“If we want to keep our winning run going, it’s important to keep players and also add some signings who will strengthen the team.”

Brendan Rodgers can claim the best unbeaten domestic start of any Hoops manager in their first season. Another landmark set by Celtic’s greatest-ever team now lies just over the horizon.

The Dane added: “I knew we were on a good run after our 19th game unbeaten against Hamilton meant we broke a record.

“Now we have made it 20 and hope to make it 21 against Partick Thistle. We will do everything we can to keep it going.

“I wasn’t aware that the Lisbon Lions hold the record of 26 games unbeaten at the start of a season, but it’s amazing — what a record.

“If we can keep this up then we will have a chance to surpass that in the new year. The chance to break records doesn’t add an extra pressure.

“We don’t think about it when we’re playing the game. It’s just about winning a match.

“But we also know teams are performing better and better against us. Dundee had a really good game plan on Saturday and it was difficult at times.

“Sometimes, we can win games beautifully and, sometimes, it’s a bit more of a fight, but the team is showing different characteristics and that’s good.

“We need to be aware that teams will have 11 men in their own half at times and we need to penetrate with runs and passes.

“In the first-half against Dundee, there was a really good possession plan, but the manager also talks about our positional play and we need to combine both.

“My job as a defender when we have so much possession is to keep my concentration for 90-plus minutes because one ball can be decisive. We are all aware of being 100-per-cent focused.”

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