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Shaun Maloney sets Braga target

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Shaun Maloney is aiming to take out nine months of frustration on Sporting Braga next week.

The 27-year-old hasn’t kicked a ball in competitive action since the misery of Celtic 1-0 Co-Operative Cup defeat from Hearts last October.

Tendinitis of the ankle followed by a number of niggling strains put paid to his chances of impressing Tony Mowbray as Celtic’s season nose dived.

Maloney has looked close to full fitness during the club’s North American tour but has his focus set on Portugal and next week’s crucial trip to Braga.

He told The Celtic View: “I’m looking forward to the start of the league and obviously the Champions League qualifier with Braga. It’s the competitive games that are my main focus.

“I’m working to get in as good shape as I can for the start of the season, things are going well at the moment, as good as I could have hoped for so it’s been a pretty good start.

“Pre-season has been as hard as ever but it’s been going well. You always know it’s going to be tough but I’ve found it enjoyable.

“I don’t have any long-term targets, I’m just hoping for a long season. Getting back on the pitch will be a good start but once I get there I’ll be expecting a lot more.”

Maloney will be amongst the big names returning for tonight’s match with Sporting Lisbon as Celtic complete their trip to North America with the perfect match to prepare for Braga.

Celtic have a week left before the trip to Portugal with Neil Lennon confident that a new look team is starting to emerge after watching the 2-1 win over Seattle Sounders.

The Celtic boss said: “We are starting to get a picture of where we want to be. We needed two squads for the pre-season schedule and overall I have been really pleased.

“There has been a contrast in the quality of the teams that we have played. The Philadelphia game was good and we got stronger as the game went on.

“Against Man Utd we got stronger as the game went on and against Seattle I thought that we started the game positively and were pretty consistent throughout.

“We are always looking for improvements and areas that we can do better in, that will come.

“Against Sporting Lisbon I want to give guys like Maloney, Fortune, O’Dea, Rogne and Ledley another 90 minutes. Hopefully if we get another positive performance it will have been a really good trip.”

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