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TOURE POISED FOR HOOPS RETURN

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KOLO TOURE is on the brink of sealing a return to Celtic in a player/coach role.

The 36-year-old Ivorian defender is in advanced talks with Brendan Rodgers over a new one-year extension.

The Hoops boss has been determined to keep Toure, whose contract expired at the end of the season and admitted last week he hadn’t given up hope of convincing the former Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool centre-half to stay.

Toure said: “I have the legs to continue for one or two more seasons.

“Celtic are the club with whom discussions are most advanced. This is the most feasible track.

“I love football too much to stop today, but I also think about my future.

“Brendan is okay to teach me the trade at the same time. But, as things stand, I don’t close the door to any other club.”

Toure, made just 17 appearances for the treble-winners and is now pondering whether to find a club where he’d get more game time.

Last week, Rodgers said: “It’s a tough one. Kolo is still in that mindset: ‘Do I want to play?’

“He’s now 36. He was fantastic for us last year, his contract has run out, but he is someone I would like to have a role for.

“Obviously, the playing role diminishes for him. He just needs time to see where he’s at, in terms of playing, or whether he falls into the coaching role more.

“It’s something that he and I have spoken about over the course of the season.”

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Meanwhile the Hoops made short work of Linfield in the first leg of their Champions League qualifier and should progress comfortably through to the next round.

They have retained the fluidity and dynamism that saw them tear teams apart towards the end of the previous campaign, and they have a great chance of qualifying for the group stage of the tournament.

They will have to negotiate a trickier third round qualifier against Rosenberg or Dundalk, and then a play-off tie, but they have the quality to go toe to toe with anyone in this stage of the competition, and really should make it through for a second consecutive season.

Last time around they got off to an extremely inauspicious start by losing to Gibraltarian part-timers Lincoln Red Imps, but then recovered in the second leg to progress 3-1 on aggregate.

Brendan Rodgers guided them through the next two rounds and Celtic were in the group stage for the first time since 2013.

It is not an easy feat given the quality of some of the teams bidding to qualify for Europe’s biggest tournament, including the likes of Ajax, CSKA Moscow, Nice, Olympiacos, AEK Athens and Dynamo Kiev. But 10 of them will make it through to the group stage and there is every chance that Celtic will be among their number.

If they do not make it through, it will be considered a huge disappointment. After all, debate has raged as to whether this is the greatest Bhoys side in history in the wake of their unprecedented Invincibles campaign in 2016-17.

They did not lose a single game in the league and won the domestic treble, so their mettle will really be tested in Europe. It is the only platform right now that will see Celtic get a decent game, and they have to give it their all.

According to the bookmakers, the Hoops have a 50-50 chance and that is understandable when you consider they failed to make it into the group stage in the two seasons before Rodgers took over.

But Celtic are playing with a lot more swagger now than they were back then. They have stars like Scotty Sinclair that could really grace the other Premiership south of the border, and perhaps Moussa Dembele, if they can keep hold of him.

Regardless, this is a quality team with an excellent manager, and they have a great chance of making it through.

The even money on offer at various bookmakers on them progressing that far looks a very good bet right now. BetDSI will have odds on them, and this review shows it is a good choice due to its reliability and strong bonuses, so you will be in safe hands if you fancy backing them to win their remaining ties and are tempted by the prospect of doubling your money by simply betting on them to qualify for the group stage.

Last season they drew twice with Man City, a team that had assembled one of the most expensive collections of stars in history and put the world’s most coveted coach in charge. They can mix it the big teams in Europe and certainly have what it takes to get past Rosenberg or Dundalk and then past the champions of a league that has a similar level of prestige to the SPL.

Less tempting is the 20/1 on offer on Celtic making it out of the group stage and into the knockout round. While they may well make it to that stage, the step up in class would be huge. Celtic might get a couple of impressive results, like the draws against Man City, but to gain enough points to escape a group at that level is a Herculean task. You never know though: if anyone can do it, it’s Rodgers, ably assisted by the likes of Sinclair and Scott Brown. If they can progress to the knockout round, then they would have a far better case for being named the greatest Celtic side ever. The group stage should really be the bare minimum.

 

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