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Football: Rab: I Liv it when going gets tough; CELTIC V LIVINGSTON Today, 3pm.

Byline: EUAN McLEAN and GAVIN BERRY

FOOTBALLERS usually moan about fixture pile-ups but the next run of games can't come quickly enough for Rab Douglas.

After all, if he's focusing on a match it stops him thinking about the night the Hoops' Champions League dream went up in smoke.

Douglas is in no doubt the defeat in Basel has left scars that will not heal for some time but insists the best way to deal with it all is to get straight back in the saddle.

Today's game against Livingston at Parkhead brings a welcome return to normal action after days of trauma and soul-searching.

And the keeper, who will also play for Scotland against the Faroes on Saturday, said: "This week the Celtic dressing-room has been one of the quietest I've ever seen.

"But the good thing is the matches are coming thick and fast. That will help to take our minds off it.

"A good show against Livingston would help us back on track so it's important to lift ourselves quickly.

"You need a few games to look forward too after a disappointment like Basel and the lads have not been dwelling on it in training as a result.

"We had a loosener on Thursday morning and a good session on Friday so we're in great shape."

Livvy also have a Euro challenge to contend with and were relieved to scrape through their UEFA Cup tie with Vaduz.

Hoops boss Martin O'Neill watched them in action at Almondvale but missed the controversial decision to chop off the visitors' last-gasp goal that almost sent Livvy crashing.

The Irishman is a big admirer of the West Lothian side and reckons they'll shrug off any tiredness to give Celtic a tough test.

He said: "I went to Livingston's game and was very pleased they got through to the next round.

"I missed all the drama because I left with seven minutes to go and only heard it on the radio!

"I'm pleased to see the people in charge, ex-Celtic people, do well and they deserve that bit of luck.

"Livvy were the better side and could have scored a number of goals.

"We tend to forget just how short their history is which makes their achievements terrific.

"There's no doubt they are a good side and the boost from Thursday's result will help them against us.

"But it's important we win. We are all disappointed after Wednesday, everyone at the club is low and it will take a day or two to get it out of our system. A good performance against Livingston will help."

Livvy keeper Javier Sanchez Broto reckons O'Neill has made a massive mistake by not playing former team-mate David Fernandez more.

The pounds 1million striker switched from Almondvale in the summer but has only seen 44 minutes of action in three substitute appearances.

Broto insists Fernandez is just the player Celtic should have turned to when they needed a goal against Basel and said: "It surprises me David hasn't played more for Celtic.

"I speak with him a lot and he seems very happy at the moment but needs more minutes. I'm sure then the fans would be able to see what he can really do.

"But I suppose it's hard because Celtic are a massive team with a lot of big names.

"At Livingston, David was the main player - now he's just another member of a very talented squad."

Jim Leishman's men have had a shaky start to the SPL campaign as they look to build on last season's success but Broto doesn't put it down to the loss of Fernandez.

And the Spaniard sees no reason why Livvy can't take something from the champions today.

Broto said: "David is possibly the best I've ever played with but he moved on in the summer and life must continue.

"We have new strikers who are looking to do the job he did.

"Celtic are the best side in the country but we have to give it our all and try to get one point, or maybe even three. Why not?

"When Livingston go to Celtic Park or Ibrox we are just a small team in comparison but for 90 minutes we have to try and live with them.

"Celtic will be sad after losing the Champions League place.

"But that won't necessarily be an advantage for us because they will now want to show all their fans what they can do."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 1, 2002
Words:744
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