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Celtic´s McDonald targets winning start

16 September 2008 17:05

GLASGOW (AFP) - Scott McDonald has billed Celtic's Champions League opener against Aalborg BK as a must-win encounter for the Scottish champions.

With holders Manchester United and Spanish side Villarreal also in Celtic's group, McDonald and co. face a tough task as they seek to continue the perfect home form that enabled them to reach the knockout stages in the last two seasons.

"Every game is a must win, especially the home games," said the Australia striker, Celtic's top scorer last season with 31 goals.

"That's where we've been strong in the last couple of years and that's got us through to the next stage.

"We don't want to rely on that but it would be nice to get off to a good start at home."

Celtic boss Gordon Strachan meanwhile is ready to ring the changes in a bid to improve the club's dismal recent record on the road in Europe.

In 17 Champions League matches away from Parkhead, the Glasgow giants have picked up just one point and Strachan now believes he may have to start leaving out some of his established first-team stars to buck the trend.

"We cannot play the same style of football that we do in the Scottish league," Strachan admitted. "We have to change our system and because of that change you have to leave out some good players who normally play.

"There are great variations in this group, real differences in style of play," he said.

"But because of our signings this year and because of our practice in pre-season, I think we'll have a better understanding of what to do away from home.

"In pre-season, we played at Feyenoord and at Porto and changed the system while registering good results. That's unusual for us in preseason - in fact it's unusual for us anywhere away from home."

Celtic were bolstered on the eve of their opening match by news that Scotland midfielder Paul Hartley has recovered from a neck injury that forced him to miss Saturday's 4-2 win over Motherwell at Fir Park.

Defender Mark Wilson has shrugged off a knee injury he suffered in the same game.

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