Celtic and fading Aberdeen set for meeting of top sides in Scotland

Celtic have a chance to begin to seriously pull away in the Scottish Premiership on Saturday against Aberdeen, who began the season hot and at one point were five points up on the champions after a head-to-head win.

Celtic's Leigh Griffiths celebrates a goal against Hearts on Wednesday night in the Scottish League Cup. Graham Stuart / Action Images / Reuters
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Celtic manager Ronny Deila says there is more to come from striker Leigh Griffiths as the team prepare to meet title rivals Aberdeen on Saturday.

Griffiths scored his 12th goal of the season and set up the other in a 2-1 League Cup quarter-final win over Hearts on Wednesday to help Celtic keep up their pursuit of a domestic treble.

“Leigh has been phenomenal,” the Celtic manager said.

“Confidence, good training and being professional on and off the pitch are important things.

“We know he has skills. He scored one but I want him to be even sharper after he scores.

“Sometimes he drops off after he gets that goal and hopefully in the near future he’ll go for two and three and four in these games.

“I was going to take him off but he got a chance and was not so tired after all and he made the run. It was very, very good.”

Nearest challengers Aberdeen visit Celtic Park on league duty on Saturday looking to close the four-point gap between the sides.

Deila is facing an anxious wait to see if midfielder Scott Brown will be available for the match after he injured his knee in the warm-up at Tynecastle.

However, the Celtic manager is confident his side will be able to cope without their captain.

“Scott is important for us but we are more capable to do it now without him than we were before,” said Deila.

“The team showed that so that was good for me to see and for everybody to see that we don’t need Scott Brown all the time to win.

“Scott felt something in his knee during the warm-up. We will have to scan it tomorrow and then we can say what it is.

“I don’t think it is serious. I hope it isn’t.”

Aberdeen head to Parkhead looking to end a five-game winless run which has seen the club surrender their lead in the Scottish Premiership to the Glasgow giants.

Derek McInnes’s side defeated Celtic at Pittodrie on September 15 to move five points clear of Celtic but a slump in form since has seen the reigning champions overtake Aberdeen at the top.

A win could move Aberdeen back to within a point of the Glasgow giants but defeat could see Hearts, who face Partick Thistle at Firhill, leapfrog into second place.

Despite seeing signs of progress in last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Motherwell, Aberdeen manager McInnes knows his side will have to play a lot better if they are to emerge with anything from Parkhead.

“We know what it takes to win against Celtic having beaten them a few weeks ago, as well as in previous seasons,” McInnes, who has defenders Andrew Considine and Ash Taylor available after illness and injury, said.

“On Saturday we will have to make sure we fully concentrate when we defend because Celtic have players who don’t need much of an opportunity to hurt the opposition.

“We have to make sure we nullify their danger but we are not going there to defend for 90 minutes.

“We have to have a way of playing that also asks questions of them.”

Fixture for Saturday (UAE time)

Celtic v Aberdeen (4.30pm)

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