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Celtic booked for Turkey as club go to work in 'break'

CELTIC will risk the wrath of Kilmarnock, as well as some of their own fans, by taking part in a mini-tournament in Turkey next month.

'We just thought the timing was ideal,' said Neil Lennon
'We just thought the timing was ideal,' said Neil Lennon

The Parkhead club had been granted permission by the Scottish Professional Football League to postpone their match against Allan Johnston's side on January 11, after the governing body gave clubs the option of applying for up to two free weekends to create a voluntary winter break.

Celtic, though, will now use that fortnight hiatus to participate in the Antalya Winter Cup alongside Galatasaray, Trabzonspor and Ajax, one of their opponents who finished above them in the group stage of this season's Champions League.

It is the third time in two seasons that Celtic have postponed league fixtures to play friendly matches against glamour opposition, having travelled to the USA to play Real Madrid at the start of last season and then faced Liverpool in Dublin early in this campaign. That latter move sparked an angry response from St Mirren, the side left without a fixture due to the postponement, with club captain Jim Goodwin labelling the move as "ridiculous".

"It doesn't happen anywhere else in the world," added the Irishman. "I can't see why it happens here."

The decision to play in Turkey has also angered some overseas Celtic fans who had booked flights and hotels for the scheduled league match against Kilmarnock. Neil Lennon, the club's manager, had previously explained the thinking behind the postponement. "It was an option that all the clubs had and we just thought the timing was ideal," Lennon said earlier this month.

"We have had a very heavy schedule in the first half of the season. We found the benefit of having the winter break last year. It gave us a chance to give some players a much-needed break and give opportunities for players to come back quicker from injury. When we came out of the winter break we were flying again so it was very beneficial."

The Turkish event takes place at the Akdeniz Universitesi-Stadion in Antalya, with Celtic to face Trabzonspor in the semi-final on January 9, a day after Ajax take on Galatasaray. The third-place play-off takes place on January 11, with the final taking place the following day.

Celtic, meanwhile, have taken Hiroki Yamada, the Japanese internationalist, on trial for a week. The 24-year-old midfielder plays for Jubilo Iwata in his native Japan.

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