SEAD HAKSABANOVIC is aiming to use the Montenegro international experience as the perfect launch pad for Celtic’s countdown to the treble.
The lively Sweden-born winger is poised to play in his first Balkan derby when his adopted nation face Serbia in their home Euro 2024 clash in the capital of Podgorica a week today.
Before that intriguing confrontation, Haksabanovic is likely to be involved in a friendly against Bulgaria on Friday.
DENIED…Sead Haksabanovic is foiled by the left foot of Allan McGregor of a glory goal in Celtic’s Viaplay League Cup Final triumph at Hampden. Team-mate Oh Hyeon-gyu gets a close-up view of the action.
Montenegro will be bouncing when the qualifier comes around, but the 23-year-old forward, a bargain £1.7million recruit from Rubin Kazan in the summer, will be well prepared for the challenge – after just 10 minutes of sampling the unique atmosphere of the Glasgow get-together.
He missed out in the 2-2 draw at Ibrox on January 2, but came on late in the Viaplay League Cup Final success at a rocking Hampden last month and came within a whisker of a third goal in the fading moments with a sweeping low, angled drive that beat Allan McGregor, but, unfortunately, crept just wide of the far post.
But Haksabanovic is gearing up for the next Premiership encounter against Michael Beale’s side at Parkhead on April 8 before the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden just over three weeks later.
Then, of course, there will be the fourth and final league derby in Govan in May following the league split at a date still to be arranged.
Haksabanovic is preparing for some colossal games at club level by stepping onto the international stage with Montenegro and is looking forward to the confrontation with neighbours Serbia.
HOOP HOOP HOORAY…Sead Haksabanovic celebrates his first honour at Celtic as he joins Filipe Jota and Co in celebrations after last month’s Hampden victory.
The exciting raider said: “It could be quite an interesting game. It’s the first time I’ll have played against them. It is a big spell, with derbies for club and country. I look forward to it. It’s always nice playing a derby or a big game.
“I haven’t been in one with the national team. How will it compare? I think the atmosphere here in Celtic Park, I don’t think you can beat that.
”There are some big games coming up, but for now I’m just focusing on the national team and trying to come back with some more confidence. What happens in the next weeks, we’ll talk about that when it comes.
“Some more game time in my legs is always good. You get better with the more game time you get. Hopefully, I can start one game and play 90 minutes.”
Haksabanovic has made dramatic entrances as a substitute in recent games with stunning strikes against the Edinburgh pair of Hearts and Hibs.
He brought down the curtain on the weekend 3-1 comeback win over the Easter Road club when he curled an exquisite low drive wide of ex-Celt David Marshall for the third goal in stoppage-time.
CRUNCH…Sead Haksabanovic is all action as he attempts to block a shot from Tod Cantwell.
He said: “They made it hard for us, they scored then they slowed the game down. But we managed to focus on what we should do and we did it well and got the win in the end.
“It’s very good on the pitch. We believe in the way the manager wants us to play and wants us to do things and we believe in each other because we know we have good quality.
“We have quality that can do something in the last minutes and maybe score a goal or make an assist. We know everyone in the team wants to do that.”
Haksabanovic accepts he will not always be in the starting line-up and, speaking to the Daily Record, added: “I’m not concentrating on that so much, more on just coming on and doing my best, trying to score or assist.
“That’s my game, that’s what I want to do I did it, so I’m very happy.
FLYING THE FLAG…Celtic fans are right behind Sead Haksabanovic.
“We have such a big squad and we can put any player out there and they will do well. It doesn’t matter if we start or if I come from the bench, we all want to play and want to show the manager we want to play and help the team.
“I’m very happy to score at home, as well. I haven’t scored in an away game yet, but, hopefully, that will come. But I’m enjoying myself here in front of our fans.”
Celtic are due to play Ross County in Dingwall a week on Sunday in the first match after the international break.
Haksabanovic could enjoy a Highland Fling against Malky Mackay’s men!