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Moussa Dembele happy but goalless at Celtic

last updated Wednesday 03rd August 2016, 10:37 AM

Fulham Football Club

Fulham striker Moussa Dembele
Former Fulham striker
Moussa Dembele
Moussa Dembele
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Former Fulham striker Moussa Dembele exudes a sense of happiness about his brand new environment. The manager, the team-mates and the city have all been very much to his liking since he swapped west London for the east end of Glasgow.

There is just one little aspect still absent - a goal.

After appearing in three European qualifiers and five friendlies, the 20-year-old French forward has yet to get off the mark for Celtic.

Now, let’s be clear. This is hardly a drama. Making any judgments about Dembele’ s potency after such a brief period of integration would be ludicrous.

He is a player with sufficient enough potential to have attracted a £6million offer from Tottenham during the January transfer window. That he ended up leaving Fulham for Celtic — for around £500,000 in compensation following the expiry of his contract — was a coup to mark Brendan Rodgers’ first signing.

Nevertheless, it is to the advantage of any striker if they can make an early breakthrough on behalf of their new employer. It eases the scrutiny from supporters. After 17 goals for Fulham last season, Dembele knows exactly what is demanded of him in Glasgow. The former Paris Saint Germain trainee also insists, however, that there is a need for patience while he adapts fully to Celtic.

He would dearly love to deliver a goal in Wednesday evening’s Champions League showdown against Astana, but remains confident he will hit peak form in due course. To Dembele, moving one step closer to the £20million group-stage ticket is far more significant than any personal target.

‘I understand what people are expecting from me,’ said Dembele.

‘But they have to be patient and I have to be patient, as well.

‘I want things to come quickly and so do others, but it can be hard and I just want to produce good games for the team and, hopefully, everything will go well.

‘Wednesday night is a huge game for us as players and for the club as a whole.

‘But it is the team winning that is most important for me because we really want to progress.

‘If I score, that would be good for me, but it’s all about the team, getting the right result. It’s not about me.’

Rather, the challenges to date have seen Leigh Griffiths reinforce his worth after last season’s exceptional 40-goal haul.

The Scotland striker’s typically instinctive finish secured a vital away goal in last week’s 1-1 first leg draw in Astana, following on from another strike against Lincoln Red Imps in the previous round.

Dembele admits he has been thoroughly impressed by the man who has carried the scoring burden at Celtic for so long. And he sees bountiful opportunity for a nascent partnership to bear further fruit.

‘It’s good for Leigh,’ said Dembele. ‘He’s started the season really well, but he showed his quality last season with the amount of goals he scored.

‘That’s what he does and it’s good for me to play alongside him, just as it’s good for him to play alongside me, I think.

‘That’s good for the team and, hopefully, we can produce good things for the team and the club.

‘The fans expect many goals from us this season and they are right. We have to show that we can play well together.’

It is stating the obvious to note that a positive combination would be useful on Wednesday evening. Rodgers’ side don’t absolutely need a goal to qualify, but the longer a stalemate exists, the more Astana will grow in belief.

You don’t have to look back far for a warning from history. Two years ago, Maribor arrived at Parkhead after an identical 1-1 first-leg result and promptly sent Ronny Deila’s Celtic spinning out of the Champions League.

A repeat lapse would be equally grim for the new regime. It’s safe to assume the possibility of mixing it with Europe’s elite played a significant role in persuading Dembele to reject a rival approach from Stuttgart this summer.

‘The Champions League qualifiers are massive for me,’ he admitted. ‘As a young kid, you always dreamed to play in the competition.

‘Right now, we are getting closer. But I’m not looking at the group stage, I’m just looking at the second leg against Astana.

‘That’s the mentality. It’s game by game and we have to win them if we want to get there. That’s what we have to do, not look at anyone else.

‘Astana are a good team and it was close between them and us in the first leg.

‘We scored that goal away from home which is an advantage for us, but it is only the first half and the second half has not even started yet.

‘We showed desire in Kazakhstan to get the goal near the end of the game, but nothing is decided.

‘We have to keep our focus and concentrate on Wednesday night, not think about what happened in the first leg over there.’

Dembele was replaced by Nir Bitton just after the hour mark in Kazakhstan. But following another run-out against Barcelona in Dublin at the weekend, he feels closer to full match readiness.

‘Things are going well for me just now,’ he added. ‘I’m settling into the team and that is what it’s all about for me, the success of the team.

‘I feel as though I’m getting fitter and sharper with every game I play.

‘The boys have been great with me and they have helped me settle into the club.

‘There is no problem between them and me. They understand me and I understand them, so it’s good.

‘I haven’t got a house yet. I’m still looking for a place to live.

‘But Glasgow is a very good city that I’m enjoying and the most important thing for me is the football. Nothing else really matters.’

Source Mark Wilson at Scottish Daily Mail
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