LIEL Abada has savoured many memorable moments during the time he has been a player at Celtic.

The £3.6m signing helped Ange Postecoglou’s team to lift the League Cup and Premiership last season, was named PFA Scotland Young Player of the Year and has featured in the Champions League group stages, including against defending champions Real Madrid, this term.

Yet, the goals which the Israeli winger has scored for the Glasgow club against their city rivals Rangers at Parkhead have been the undoubted highlights of his stay in Scotland to date.

He netted in a 3-0 win over the Ibrox club that helped Celtic to leapfrog their opponents into first place in the league table in February last year and was on target twice in the first-half of a 4-0 mauling of the Govan outfit in September.

On each occasion, his strikes have sent the 58,000-strong crowd inside the stadium wild.  

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“The atmosphere in the game at the start of this season was unbelievable ,” said Abada. “It felt crazy with all the fans. I was really happy that we won the game. I also scored against Rangers last season and it was my first derby game at Celtic Park. The atmosphere that day was unbelievable too.”

The 21-year-old, who returned from a lengthy injury lay-off when he came on in the 2-0 win over Hearts at Tynecastle on Sunday that ensured his side retained the Scottish title, knows the reaction will be quite different if he scores against Rangers tomorrow.

There will be no away supporters inside Ibrox due to a long-running dispute between the directors of the two teams over ticket allocations and security protocols.

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But the Sound of Silence will be sweet music to the ears of Abada, who has once again been shortlisted for the PFA Scotland Young Player of the Year award, this weekend.

“Every time we play the Celtic fans come to support us,” he said. “It’s very good because it pushes us to get to the top. For this game, there are no fans so we need to do the job without them and be focused on doing the job.

“In the games before the atmosphere has been unbelievable. But for this one the best noise will be silence. If it is quiet we know we are doing well. We just have to do our job like we do every time.”

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The forward is determined to help Postecoglou’s team overcome Michael Beale’s side tomorrow even though they are 13 points clear of their nearest challengers with four Premiership games remaining and cannot be caught.

He would like Celtic to go undefeated in all six of their matches against Rangers in the 2022/23 campaign and also knows that a triumph will keep alive their hopes of posting a record points total of 107.

Going into the Scottish Cup final against Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Hampden on Saturday, June 3 – a game they can complete their fifth treble in seven years in - on the back of an extended winning run is also vital.

“For us, every game is important,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who we play, we just want to bring our game to every game to get the three points.

“It doesn’t matter if we have won the league already or not. We just have our targets and want to finish the season strongly.”

“Celtic is such a big club - the best club in Scotland - and in every game you feel the pressure from the fans. You want to win every game to get the three points.

“For all the players there is pressure. That’s the same whether it’s the Champions League or other important games. But we stay calm and just do our job. We know what we have to do in every game and we do it.”

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Abada has performed consistently well for Celtic since arriving in this country from Maccabi Petah Tikva. But he has matured considerably and noticeably off the park in the past two years.

His English has certainly improved. He was far more comfortable and confident speaking to reporters at the PFA Scotland media event to promote the Player of the Year awards earlier this week than had previously been the case.

The departure of his countryman Nir Bitton, who had been something of a father figure to him, for Maccabi Tel Aviv in his homeland last summer has perhaps forced him to come out of his shell more. 

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“When I came to Scotland I was 19 years-old,” he said. “It was very different for me, a different country with no family around me and sometimes it was difficult. I was alone here without my girlfriend or anyone else.

“But I had Nir Bitton here with me at Celtic and he really looked after me. There are also a lot of Israeli people in Glasgow who helped me and made me feel good here and happy here. I now feel my language is better.

“It was difficult when Niro left Celtic because he was the one in the dressing room I had the best relationship with. After he left it was a little bit sad for me. But it also helped me speak with the other boys and work on my English with the staff.

“It made me do other things that I didn’t do before because Niro looked after me. I don’t have Niro of his family helping me like they did before, but I’m okay. I feel good. My girlfriend is here with me now and that helps.

“I still speak with Niro a lot. He watches all of the Celtic games because Celtic is in his heart. We speak a lot and sometimes he tells me what to do and what not to do. He thinks he’s the coach! But my relationship with Niro is still very good. I really love him.”

Abada has not been short of assistance on the football front either. He feels that playing against RB Leipzig, Real Madrid and Shakhtar Donetsk and being coached by former Champions League winner Harry Kewell have helped him to develop as a player in the past 10 months. 

“I work with Harry a lot and it’s a big help,” he said. “We do extra sessions after training and we look at what we need to improve on and do better. He looks after us and it’s very important.

“I think quicker now. In the Champions League you don’t get too much time on the ball so you have to think very fast. I think I have improved that side of my game. I work on that in training and it’s helped me a lot. The staff and manager has helped me improve on that and get better.”

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Abada’s form has led to him being linked with moves away from Celtic this summer, including to Dutch giants Ajax, in recent weeks. The Parkhead club would make another tidy profit if they were to sell him on. His focus, though, is firmly on the final five matches of the season and nothing else. 

“Right now I’m Celtic,” he said. “I don’t really care about any of the things being said about my future. I just care about giving 100 percent in training and in games. I am happy here and that’s the most important thing.

“We have won the league and we have the next target to win the Scottish Cup to complete the treble. That is our focus to complete our target. I don’t care about anything else.”