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Dundee Defender James Mcpake Rates Celtic Star Highly


JoeCovenant

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Source: The Courier

Dundee defender James McPake is relishing the prospect of facing the man he believes to be Celtic’s top striker. The Dark Blues welcome the Hoops for their Scottish Cup fifth round lunchtime clash at Dens and there will be a warm greeting from McPake for his pal Leigh Griffiths before kick-off.

After the whistle goes, though, McPake will aim to keep the former Dundee frontman quiet. That won’t be easy, as the big central defender is not alone in rating his mate so highly. Griffiths reminded everyone of how deadly he can be in front of goal when he opened the scoring for Celtic in their League Cup semi-final stroll against Rangers on Sunday.

McPake, who played alongside Griffiths at both Livingston and Hibs, said: “I am delighted to see Leigh get in the Celtic team and prove how good he is. I think he can now establish himself as the main striker at what is a massive football club. Whether he plays against us remains to be seen but if he does it will be my job to stop him.

“I will maybe have a wee word in his ear every now and again. I am that used to trying to keep him out of trouble but I can’t do that - I will need to leave him be! I will look forward to facing him because in all the time I have known him we have only played against each other for just over a half and we both left the park with a goal that day,†added McPake, referring to the early-season league meeting between the Dark Blues and Hoops that finished 1-1. He opened the scoring early on and sub Griffiths saved a point for the Celts.

“Leigh has a competitive streak and has been like that since he was 16. He is a fiery character in a good way. Looking back over the years all he got was criticised by certain people but now people are sticking up for him and we are seeing a good side of Leigh that has always been there. Some never wanted to give him the chance to prove it but now he is at that football club (Celtic) he has knuckled down and shown what a player he is. It will be a battle because whoever is playing against us - Leigh or whoever - it will be a test for me and the rest of the lads at the back.â€

Griffiths may be bang in form but Dundee have their own on-fire frontman in the shape of Greg Stewart, who has already netted 14 goals for the Dens men this season.

McPake said: “Greg has been brilliant for us, unbelievable actually. He is one of the top scorers in the league and the goals that he has scored haven’t surprised me because you see him do that every day in training. He is a good age, is knuckling down and working hard.

“No disrepect to this league but I think he is a certainty to go on to better things one day. I am just happy that he is here for the foreseeable future because he is a top talent. He lights up training every day and has real quality. Greg does everything with a bit of finesse and is a proper footballer.â€

Of course, Dundee knocked Aberdeen out of the Scottish Cup in the last round back in November so they might have hoped for an easier option than a tie against the tournamant favourites.

McPake added: “Obviously, we could have had an easier draw than Celtic. However, when you win a tie as we did against Aberdeen you are just thankful to be in the draw no matter who you get. To wins cups you have to beat the best teams in the country and in our case that would mean knocking out Aberdeen and then Celtic.â€

What is going a long way to persuading Dundee fans progress is possible is the way the Dark Blues have played against Ronny Deila’s men this season. They had the draw at Dens back in August and that was followed up with a fine performance in defeat at Celtic Park in November, with manager Paul Hartley declaring the latter display to be the better of the two.

McPake added: “We can take confidence from being six games unbeaten and we have had a decent season. “On the two occasions we have played Celtic they have been good games, pretty close matches. That’s not to say this one will resemble those previous games but we can take some encouragment from how we have played against Celtic. We will need to be at our best - and then a wee bit more - to get anything off of them.

“There is no pressure on us and we would love to be in the hat whenever the draw is made.â€

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