ANGE Postecoglou, the Celtic manager, fears that the cluttered December fixture list will detract from the quality of the games on offer.

Celtic’s encounter at Tannadice this afternoon is the second of nine games this month before they round off the opening half of the campaign with a game against Rangers.

The Greek-Australian has yet to have a full quota of players available to him since he arrived at the club in June with injury issues continuing to play havoc with a settled squad. Anthony Ralston and Jota, two players who have had key roles under Postecoglou this term, headed to the treatment room along with Stephen Welsh after Thursday’s win over Hearts.

With so many games in such a short period of time the Celtic manager suspects that there is an inevitability about players picking up injury issues.

“We’re playing so many games that some wear and tear is inevitable,” said Postecoglou. “Couple that with how we play our football and how we train and it’s always a fine line between pushing the guys to the maximum and trying to ensure we don’t overload them.  

“With so many games and our squad being limited in certain areas, some of the guys are having to back up.  It’s the risk you run when you try to do things the way we do.  

“In Japan, particularly during the Covid year, we (also) had an extreme situation and it does take its toll on the players.  It detracts from the spectacle when players are having to back up every three or four days. At the same time we are trying to get the squad robust enough to handle that.  

“We are in three competitions in this period, a cup final and playing in Europe. That’s a further burden but it’s one we’d rather have than not.” 

The likelihood is that the final Europa League meeting against Real Betis will be viewed as an opportunity to get game time into players who have not been starting games this season. The defeat in Germany at the end of last month blocked Celtic’s progress in the tournament as they drop into the Conference League post Christmas.

“From our perspective it’s still a game we want to win and perform well in,” said Postecoglou.  “And it’s not just about resting a few – probably more important is giving some minutes to a few because we are going to need them.  

“We saw on Thursday night that Adam Montgomery had to come on and he has not played for four or five weeks.  Thursday is an opportunity to get 90 minutes of good football into some of the guys who have not played a lot.  

“We still have a fair chunk of important games coming up after Betis so it makes sense to get some minutes into some of the other guys so that when we call on them they will have played in this period.  

“James McCarthy, Mikey Johnston, Liel Abada and Nir Bitton all come into that category. There is an opportunity to get some minutes into their legs and have them ready when required.”

If Celtic’s need for further depth has been highlighted by the run of injuries that they have faced at different points of this season, it is something that can be addressed when the winter transfer window opens next month.

“That’s why we need a strong squad,” said Postecoglou. “The full-back positions were a real problem for us and we now have two players who are excelling every week. That’s what we need in every position.  It’s about selecting a team to win every individual game we play. People’s positions may vary depending on what we need.  

“The world is an ever-changing landscape. There are always things happening whether its through the issues of Covid or whatever else is happening. Our intent and organisation is around getting players in as early as we can.  

“We know what we need and that’s what we are working towards. All things being well that is what will transpire.  I’m sure plenty names have been mentioned! We go fishing, we put out a number of lines and we see what we catch.” 

Between then and now there is no scope for slipping.

Tam Courts has been one of the surprise packages of the season with a sound start to his tenure at Tannadice. Having drawn against Celtic in Glasgow, United will fancy their chances of frustrating Postecoglou’s side, particularly given the absence of Jota who has been fundamental to the menace that the Parkhead side have carried from middle to front. 

“Our away performances have been really good, we have had some difficult encounters in recent weeks and overcome them,” said Postecoglou.  “It’ll be another different challenge for us on Sunday for sure.  

“We need to make sure we bring the right energy to the game, play our football and show the resilience we have displayed at home and away.  Go there with the intent of being the dominant team and getting the job done.”