Motherwell face Celtic in the last 16 of the Betfred cup tomorrow night, after progressing from Group F with nine points.
Scottish Champions Celtic play their first fixture in the cup due to their European commitments, and face Mark McGhee’s men at Parkhead.
The Steelmen will be boosted by the return of captain Keith Lasley, who missed last weekends league match against Kilmarnock due to suspension.
Carl McHugh, who suffered a nasty gash to the head, will be forced to strap his injury if he hopes to start – with the player himself insisting that he wants to play.
Meanwhile, strikers Louis Moult and Jacob Blyth remain unavailable due to injury.
The Fir Parkers go into tomorrow’s match on the back of an important 2-1 win on the opening game of the league season against Kilmarnock.
Goals from Lionel Ainsworth and Marvin Johnson either side of the break was enough for Mark McGhee’s side on a tough afternoon at Rugby Park.
And Motherwell fans will be hopeful that the goalscoring form of the ‘Well attackers continues in the cup, with Marvin Johnson bagging three goals, McDonald scoring two and Cadden adding another two in Group F.
The last time the two sides met, Celtic ran away to a 7-0 win on the final day of the season, but tomorrow night could go either way, as the Steelmen registered a 2-1 win in the other league game at Celtic Park.
As football fans know, cup fixtures can often result in upsets, and despite the ‘Well going in to tomorrow nights game as underdogs, the manager and players of Motherwell are going in to the match with confidence and belief.
Centre-back Stephen McManus will not only be key to thwarting the danger that Celtic possess going forward, but he also goes up against his former employers.
With the experience the ex-Scottish international has in his locker, his leadership and presence at the back will prove to be vital for new summer signings Ben Heneghan and Richard Tait.
The 33-year-old is assured that the ‘Well can put in a good performance at Parkhead tomorrow night and admitted that playing away from home is always a disadvantage.
But he insists the Steelmen will travel to Glasgow “full of confidence”.
[pullquote]It’s going to be difficult but we’re in good form… we’ll go there full of confidence.[/pullquote]
Speaking to the press this morning, McManus said: “It’s going to be difficult but we’re in good form. When you get drawn in the League Cup you always prefer to be at home, so it’s going to difficult but we’ll go there full of confidence.
“All we can do is give it our best shot and see how we go.”
In the League Cup you always prefer to be at home, so it’s going to difficult but we’ll go there full of confidence.
The 33-year-old spoke about the heavy defeat at the end of last season.
He said: “The last game of the season didn’t have much for us to play for but you still have personal pride.
“As much as you try and sugar-coat it and say that it doesn’t matter, of course it does because as a player you don’t want to be on the receiving end of too many of them.”
[pullquote]For us, we hope we can put in a good showing for ourselves… we know that there’s a chance we can do it tomorrow night. [/pullquote]
He added: “Thankfully there’s been more positive results than negative ones since Mark came in.”
Thankfully there’s been more positive results than negative ones since Mark came in.
On tomorrow’s opposition, the defender claimed the Celtic players will be up for the occasion.
McManus said: “For Celtic the main thing is they have a new manager and this is an opportunity for them to get their mind-set on winning the treble, as a player there that’s what you’re all about.
“For us, we hope we can put in a good showing for ourselves. I’ve been involved in games there where you’re expected to win there and it hasn’t happened so we know that there’s a chance we can do it tomorrow night.”
Tomorrow’s opponents don’t need much of an introduction, having racked up five consecutive league titles and 47 in their 128-year history.
Under new manager Brendan Rodgers, the future of the club will most likely continue on that successful trend.
The ex-Liverpool manager was appointed in the summer and has enjoyed a successful start to life north of the border; progressing in the Champions League qualifiers and adding a number of high-profile additions.
Moussa Dembele signed from Fulham, Kolo Toure joined on a free after leaving Liverpool and, most recently, Scott Sinclair signed from Aston Villa.
And it is perhaps the arrival of Sinclair that has made the biggest statement for the club.
The Englishman is a big coup for the Scottish Champions, having enjoyed spells with Manchester City, Chelsea and Swansea – where he worked under Rodgers.
And the 27-year-old made a big impression on his debut, scoring the winner against Hearts in the opening game of the season.
Add those three players to an already strong squad including last season’s top league scorer Leigh Griffiths, and the Hoops pose an obvious threat to the Fir Parkers.
But manager Mark McGhee is both excited as well as nervous for the cup clash.
[pullquote]They rely on those players to play well in that system and they do have good players who are playing well so we can see that it’s going to be a difficult game.[/pullquote]
He said: “I’m excited and nervous too – last time we went to Parkhead we got absolutely hammered, but we also know that we went there last season and won.
“I would imagine that our performance tomorrow night will be much more reminiscent of the first game rather than the last game because the last game was a bit different.”
He added: “We have to go there and expect a very difficult game – for me Celtic look slightly different than they did last year where I thought they played a very expansive, sophisticated way; whereas this year looks a lot more like the way we play, except they do it with really good players.
“They rely on those players to play well in that system and they do have good players who are playing well so we can see that it’s going to be a difficult game.”