CELTIC are capable of beating Copenhagen without their talismanic captain Scott Brown tomorrow night– and then going all the way in this season’s Europa League.

That was the confident prediction of the Parkhead club’s former midfield enforcer Paul Hartley yesterday as he looked ahead to the second leg of the last 32 double header.

Neil Lennon, whose team drew the first match against Stale Solbakken’s side 1-1 in Denmark last week, is currently sweating over the fitness of Brown ahead of the massive match.


The ball-winning midfielder, who limped off with a calf injury in the Telia Parken last Thursday night, has been outstanding for the treble treble winners once again this season and will be a huge loss if he is ruled out.

However, Hartley believes that Callum McGregor can take over from his skipper, as he did in the 3-1 triumph over Kilmarnock on Sunday, and ensure that Celtic book their place in the last 16 of the continental competition.

And the player who helped the Glasgow club reach the knockout rounds of the Champions League back in the 2007/8 season feels that Lennon’s men could even go on and challenge for the trophy.

"They've got a good chance of going all the way," he said at a William Hill media event at Hampden.

“It comes down to the luck of the draw sometimes, but they are playing well and showing they are more than a match for anyone in the tournament this season.

“I don’t think any of the teams left in it will fancy going to Celtic Park, while Celtic have also got their away form sorted in Europe, compared to how it used to be.

“You saw that last week in Copenhagen and earlier in the season with some of their other results, including the win against Lazio in Rome. And we already know Celtic can beat anyone at Celtic Park.

“They’ve definitely got a strong enough squad to compete in Europe and domestically. Just look at their bench now. They have a lot of quality there."

Turning his attention to the Copenhagen game, Hartley added: “Having watched Celtic since the turn of the year, I think they have a great chance. They’re in good form and they have that vital away goal after a good away performance last week, particularly in the first half.

“I like the way they’re playing at the moment. Changing their system to 3-5-2 seems to have suited them so, especially with that crowd behind them, I’d expect them to win.”


Asked about the potential absence of Brown, Hartley said: “Losing their captain would be a big blow, but they have enough quality in their squad to bring someone else in without losing too much.

“The way Callum McGregor is playing, he could be used anywhere – as a holding midfielder or an attacking one, he has everything to his game. He’s just as effective as Scott when he sits in, which he’s done often enough in a 4-2-3-1.

“Wherever he’s used, he brings his range of passing and his game intelligence to the role – and he’s a big-game player.


“Personally, I think he has too much to offer in the final third to play him further back, but he’s already proved he can play there and I’ve no doubt he can continue to do a job at this level for another 10 years because he’ll be able to drop back.

“He’s great at keeping the ball moving first-time and the difference between him and other midfielders is that he always looks to play a forward pass," he said. "Callum’s not one of those negative players who knocks it sideways and backwards – he tries to break the lines with every attempt.

“Plus he has a goal threat with that great left foot. He’s the archetypal modern-day midfielder, one who’s able to control the direction and tempo of matches.”

Paul Hartley was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is the proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup.