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Callum McGregor aims to help Celtic’s youngsters as Champions League approaches

Callum McGregor (PA Wire)

Callum McGregor aims to steer Celtic’s young players through their introduction to the first team with the Hoops facing a shortage of experienced players for their Champions League opener.

Celtic saw Mikey Johnston and Ismaila Soro go off with hamstring issues during their goalless friendly against Bristol City on Wednesday after goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas suffered a finger injury during the warm-up.

Teenager Karamoko Dembele also went off after taking a heavy knock with Celtic already missing Odsonne Edouard because of a thigh strain.

The likes of Ryan Christie, Tom Rogic and Kristoffer Ajer were absent, with the latter continuing to be linked with a possible move to Brentford.

James Forrest has been missing from their opening pre-season games because of a self-isolation order and Christopher Jullien is still short of a comeback following a serious knee injury.

New boss Ange Postecoglou has only Saturday’s game against Preston to fine tune his team ahead of the visit of Midtjylland in the second qualifying round of the Champions League on Tuesday.

McGregor was encouraged by some of the play against Bristol City but admits the injuries have caused problems.

“The first half was really positive,” he told Celtic TV. “I think we controlled the game really, really well, doing the things the manager has asked us to do – loads of rotation, trying to find the spare man, a little bit of problem solving on the pitch, and trying to take the ball forward through the thirds of the pitch.

“I think Bristol were in our box once in the first half. It’s trying to do all those things and just keep getting better at them, reacting when we lose the ball, and obviously the only negative is losing a couple of boys to injury.

“Pre-season is a difficult one. You are trying to push players to the limit so they can tolerate that strain on the body and sometimes that’s just what happens, that’s football.

“We need to try and deal with that and hopefully the boys settle.

“Soro hopefully will be all right as well, that just looks like a little bit of a tweak.”

Postecoglou brought on the likes of Dane Murray, Ewan Henderson, Owen Moffat and Adam Montgomery after giving even more young players action in the previous games in Wales.

“Big Dane was outstanding when he came on, Monty did well again, young Moff getting another runout, so for the young kids it’s brilliant,” McGregor added.

“They just need to keep doing it, keep sticking with it and trying to get better every day and keep trying to push the squad because, with the numbers and where we’re at, there’s chances for them, so they have to get to the level.”

McGregor knows experienced players must help the young players get to the required standards quickly.

“It’s hard enough as a younger player trying to come through,” the 28-year-old said. “You need a bit of help as well.

“I have had brilliant guys before me – Charlie (Mulgrew), Broony (Scott Brown), all these experienced guys – that have helped me. So I try and pass that on as well.

“Like we said in the changing room, the games come pretty quickly, so we have to get that togetherness, that real team spirit and work for each other, and you can see that coming together.”

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