Celtic midfielder Stefan Johansen has told Sky Sports News HQ that Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven are the club’s two best players ahead of Sunday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final at Dundee United.
The pair both signed from United during the closing hours of the winter transfer window, in a combined deal worth around £2 million plus add-ons, and have since been in fine form amid Celtic’s bid to claim their first domestic treble since 2001.
Neither will be eligible for the weekend’s trip to Tannadice, however, having been cup-tied before arriving at Parkhead, and Johansen admits their absence will be a big blow.
Nevertheless, after Celtic lost December’s corresponding Scottish Premiership clash 2-1 when both were in the opposition line-up, with Armstrong himself netted the deciding second-half goal, the Norwegian midfielder adds their top-flight rivals themselves are in a weakened state.
“We lost against Dundee last time we were there so we want to go back and win the game,” he said on Thursday morning. “I think they’re our two best players and they will miss good, quality players like them.
““Of course you wish they were able to play, but that’s how it is. It’s a weakness for us that they are not able to play but we have players who can fill their roles.”
Celtic suffered a minor setback this week, losing 1-0 at home to St Johnstone to end their 11-game unbeaten domestic run, but the club’s lead at the top of the league table still remains six points over Aberdeen.
“We still have great confidence,” Johansen continued. “We go out there knowing the way the gaffer wants us to play, and knowing we’re able to beat other good teams. The confidence is really high now.
“We want the treble. It’s going to be difficult but it would be a great season for us.”
Having netted twice in 16 league appearances during his first half-season at Celtic after arriving from Stromsgodest, a move to a more advanced role this term has seen Johansen’s production take a significant upturn.
The 15-times capped international has grabbed 10 goals across all competitions so far, while also adding eight assists, and admits he’s relishing his newfound freedom to get forward.
“I started a bit deeper and the gaffer, when Kris [Commons] was injured, tried me in a number 10 role,” he added.
“After that it worked well for me, I scored a couple goals and done some assists, so I quite enjoy it. It’s difficult not to enjoy it when it’s going good for you.”