SWEDISH centre-back Carl Starfelt is in line to answer Celtic’s SOS and go straight into the team for the Premiership opener against Hearts at Tynecastle on Saturday night.

The 26-year-old international defender, who agreed the £4.5million move from Russian club Rubin Kazan last week, will be free of Covid quarantine restrictions in time for the crucial league kick-off.

Ange Postecoglou, disappointed with last night’s 2-1 extra-time loss to FC Midtjylland in Denmark that saw the Hoops’ Challenge League bid fail at the qualifying stage for the fourth consecutive season, has turned his attention to the encounter in Edinburgh.

Japanese striker Kyogo Furuhashi will also be available soon, while a deal is close for Royal Antwerp right-back Aurelio Buta. Major shareholder Dermot Desmond is spearheading a move for former England keeper Joe Hart.

Despite dropping Greek fall guy Vasilis Barkas for keeper Scott Bain against the Danes, Postecoglou could do little to change an inexperienced backline featuring Anthony Ralston, Stephen Welsh, Dane Murray and Greg Taylor with an average age of 21.

Postecoglou insisted the squad will be in a better place for the games against Hearts and Europa Czech opponents Jablonec and said: “Carl Starfelt has obviously come in, Nir Bitton will be back available, Kyogo Furuhashi will come in, so we’ll be stronger in terms of depth and quality, which we need.

“Guys such as James Forrest got his first real run and will be better for it, so I do believe we’ll get stronger and we’ll be in much better shape come the next European tie.

“More importantly, I want to make sure we start the league well on Saturday and that’s our focus right now.

“We’ll have reinforcements between now and then which will help, because the players worked awfully hard tonight.”

Explaining the decision to go with Bain over Barkas, the Hoops gaffer, speaking to the Daily Mail, said: “Scott has been training well and I just felt that, after the weekend game, that with such a young back four they needed a strong voice behind them.

“Scott provides that, he is very vocal and he doesn’t mind leading from back there.

“Barky is a different kind of personality, he is a bit more quiet and reserved.”

On the move for Spurs’ former England No.1 Hart, Postecoglou added: “Again we have been linked with so many people and that’s a frustrating bit with me.

“I would rather be talking about people we brought in rather than people we have been linked with.”



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