ANGE POSTECOGLOU praised Player of the Month Reo Hatate and insisted he is NOT looking for revenge when Celtic return to the scene of their only domestic defeat this season.
One Hoops star who is almost certain to get the nod to face St Mirren in Paisley for the High Noon showdown on Sunday is the club’s impressive Japanese midfielder.
Hatate has just been given the Premiership top performer award for February and is on a high after another excellent outing in the 2-1 Viaplay Cup Final triumph over Michael Beale’s Ibrox outfit at Hampden at the weekend.
The hard-working performer was a second-half substitute for Aaron Mooy when the champions slumped to an unexpected 2-0 loss against the Saints in September,
FAR EASTERN PROMISE…Celtic’s Japanese stars Kyogo Furuhashi, Reo Hatate, Daizen Maeda, Tomoki Iwata and Yuki Kobayashi celebrate after the League Cup triumph at Hampden last weekend.
Hatate walloped in two – one from the penalty spot – as the Hoops romped to a 5-1 win over Stephen Robinson’s men at Parkhead last month and will likely be in at the kick-off this time around.
Speaking of his influential recruit from the J-League, Postecoglou said: “He’s had a good year. When he came in 12 months ago it’s fair to say he made an impact straight away.
“But we knew it would be a tough initiation for him because he had come off the back of a full Japanese league season whereas this season he’s had the benefit of a good pre-season.
“He’s been strong and consistent all season, but over the last month he’s gone to another level and I certainly believe there’s another couple of levels in him as a footballer.
“He’s enjoying it and he’s making more of an impact which is great for us.”
A BUNCH OF FIVES…Reo Hatate turns away in delight after thumping Celtic’s fifth goal behind the dejected Trevor Carson in the Scottish Cup romp at Parkhead last month.
Postecoglou turned his attention to the continuing pursuit of league points in the bid for a second successive crown and, asked if he was on a mission of vengeance, told Sky Sports: “It’s another tough game and we haven’t treated any game like that.
“We were disappointed with the outcome that day. We didn’t play well and the opposition did. We dealt with that a couple days after when we did our reviews and away you go to improve.
“Since then, our football has improved immensely, results and performances on a weekly basis have been consistent. We want to finish the season strong, so it’s another good challenge.”
CUP THAT CHEERS…a delighted Ange Postecoglou with the newly-won League Cup.
Reflecting on Sunday’s Hampden triumph, the Greek-Australian gaffer added: “It’s always great to win trophies and that is the first one on offer.
“It was a great day for our club and our lads performed awfully well in a tough game against a tough opponent, but we got the job done, enjoyed Sunday and got back to work on Tuesday.
“Hopefully, you come out it with a drive and desire to do it again. Hopefully, they all want to be there again and want to perform a the highest level and bring success to the club.”