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Celtic FC midfielder Aiden McGeady is so determined to play in his team's crucial Group E encounter with Aalborg BK on Tuesday that he is prepared to risk aggravating a calf injury just to be involved. McGeady has not fully recovered from the strain he picked up on 5 November, and which has kept him out of action since, but has made himself available to his manager Gordon Strachan for a match Celtic cannot afford to lose if they are to remain in European competition this season.
Winner takes all
Celtic and AaB, who drew 0-0 when they met in Glasgow on Matchday 1, are tied on two points and defeat for either would see them finish bottom of the group. A win, on the other hand, would guarantee third place and a spot in the UEFA Cup, while also keeping alive the victor's faint hopes of making the last-16 of the UEFA Champions League. Those dreams will be shattered, however, should Villarreal CF and Manchester United FC draw at El Madrigal in Tuesday's other Group E match.
With so much at stake it is little wonder McGeady is desperate to return. "I've just started training again in the past few days but I've told the manager that I'm available for selection," said the 22-year-old. "I've hated watching the team play without me. Injuries are the worst thing that can happen to a footballer and I want to get over mine as quickly as possible, especially as we have such an important game to play."
The significance of Celtic's visit to Denmark does not just lie in their hopes of playing European football in 2009. The Scottish champions are also looking to end an awful away record in the UEFA Champions League which has seen them fail to win in 19 games and lose their last ten in a row. Having played in many of those fixtures since making his debut for Celtic in 2004, McGeady is as keen as anyone in the squad to bring the run to an end. "We've had the players to get three points away from home for some time but it just hasn't happened," he said. "But we feel this may be our best chance for some time. No disrespect to Aalborg but I think we're a better team than them."
That assessment is not shared by the AaB captain Thomas Augustinussen who believes the eight-match unbeaten run his team has gone on since Allan Kuhn replaced Bruce Rioch as manager last month, which includes the impressive 2-2 against Villarreal on Matchday 4, proves they can overcome Celtic. "We are a better team now than the one Celtic met in Scotland, both in defence and in offence," said the 27-year-old. "If we do a job like we did against Villarreal then we have a very good chance of winning."
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