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Sissoko ready for Hampden test after Inzaghi 'lesson'

HE knows what it is like to stroll on to the San Siro to combat Filippo Inzaghi, yet there will surely be a flutter of nerves as Mohamadou Sissoko steps into uncharted territory on Sunday.

Mohamadou Sissoko has forged a new partnership with Michael Nelson
Mohamadou Sissoko has forged a new partnership with Michael Nelson

"I have never been involved in a cup final before so I am very excited,'' says the Frenchman, who will marshal Kilmarnock's defence against Celtic. "I didn't even play a cup final as a kid, so I hope I can win this one.'

The centre-back, though, has one memory that should dismiss any trepidation about a debut in the business end of a cup competition. The defender, on loan from Udinese, played for the Italian side against AC Milan in the San Siro five years ago.

"I came on for the last 20 minutes and played against Filippo Inzaghi and Yoann Gourcuff,'' he said of a 2-1 defeat. "I was just 18 at the time so it was difficult coming into a game of that size. It was my first game and against Inzaghi it wasn't easy, although he didn't score.''

It was, though, a memorable experience. "It was a great lesson, because Inzaghi's movement was great. It was hard to track him because he kept moving offside and then back onside,'' he said.

Sissoko and his fellow defenders will almost certainly face Gary Hooper and Anthony Stokes on Sunday with both Celtic strikers in free-scoring form with 20 goals each this season. "Hooper is a great player but I will be ready for this game against him,'' said Sissoko. However, he added: "I wouldn't say they were the best I have faced. I think Nikica Jelavic was better.''

His parents will travel from Paris to watch him but he will miss the comforting presence of Manuel Pascali, his normal partner in the centre of the Kilmarnock defence. "I had a great partnership with Pascali because I know him well and Michael Nelson has only come in over the last few months so it isn't the same,'' said Sissoko. "But I think Michael is a great player, so we can do it.''

There will be a step into the unknown for Sissoko on Sunday but there is further uncertainty on the horizon. Sissoko, who has two years to run on his contract at Udinese, said: "I don't know what my future will be but I would like to go back to France and be close to my family.''

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