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3 key players for Celtic against Zenit St Peterburg

Celtic's Scottish goalkeeper Craig Gordon, Celtic's Israeli midfielder Nir Bitton, Celtic's Scottish midfielder Scott Brown, Celtic's French striker Moussa Dembele, Celtic's English...

Celtic will need to be at their best if they are to stand a chance of beating Roberto Mancini's Russian superstars Zenit St Petersburg on Thursday night

The Celtic starting XI before the Champions League second round first leg qualifying game between Linfield and Celtic at Windsor Park on July 14, 2017 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Brendan Rodgers' Celtic will have a huge task on their hands as they face Roberto Mancini's Zenit St Petersburg in the Europa League round of 32 First Leg at Celtic Park on Thursday.

Zenit currently sit 2nd in the Russian Premier League table, but boast a squad of superstar players including Russian league top scorer Aleksandr Kokorin and Emiliano Rigoni, who has netted six in six in Europe this season himself. 

Having experienced serious injury woes all season, the current crop of fit Bhoys must step up if they are to have any chance of progressing through the round of 32.

Ahead of Thursday night's clash, we will take a look at 3 individuals who will have a huge part to play if the Hoops are to pick up a result:

Scott Brown - CM

Scott Brown of Celtic takes a wild swing at the ball during the Champions League group B match between Celtic FC and Bayern Muenchen at Celtic Park on October 31, 2017 in Glasgow, Scotland.

Celtic skipper Scott Brown, 32, is by far the squad's most experienced player. The Scottish veteran often saves his best performances for the famous European nights at Celtic Park, and with nearly 100 games in European competition for the Hoops, has seen it all before. 

With Celtic's unsettled defence, Brown's warrior-like presence in the midfield will, as always, be vitally important to the back four. The captain's tenacity is invaluable to his team's success and his tireless work around the park from start to finish will be key. 

James Forrest - RW

James Forrest of Celtic scores his teams fifth goal during the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership match between Celtic and Motherwell at Celtic Park on December 2, 2017 in Glasgow, Scotland.

James Forrest, 26, has been Celtic's stand out performer this campaign. Off the back of a hat trick performance against Partick Thistle last weekend, the winger will be looking to add to his impressive tally of 16 goals this season. 

Forrest's blistering pace has tormented teams in Europe in the past and, on his day, he adds a whole new dimension to the Celtic attack. With fellow winger Scott Sinclair experiencing a dip in form in recent months, it's more important than ever for Forrest to step up on Thursday night. 

Having broken into the Celtic first team as an academy graduate in 2010, Forrest is also one of the most experienced Celts when it comes to European competition, having amassed 59 appearances so far for his club in Europe.

Jozo Simunovic - CB

With Dedryk Boyata currently out injured, it appears likely that Jozo Simunovic will partner either Kristoffer Ajer or January arrivcal Jack Hendry at the heart of the Celtic defence on Thursday night.

Jozo Simunovic of Celtic tackles Kylian Mbappe of PSG  during the UEFA Champions League group B match between Paris Saint-Germain and Celtic FC at Parc des Princes on November 22, 2017 in...

Simunovic has had an inconsistent Celtic career so far, sometimes being lauded as the club's finest defender whilst also drawing heavy criticism for poor performances. With second choice goalkeeper Dorus De Vries between the sticks in place of the injured Craig Gordon, it's imperative that Celtic's back four hold it together if the team are to have a chance of progressing. 

Simunovic has proved in the past that he is capable of dominant displays, having done so in the Champions League away at Anderlecht, when his side ran out 3-0 winners earlier this season. Celtic fans will be looking to the Bosnian for a repeat of that performance in Brussels, as the team looks to nullify the rampant Aleksandr Kokorin.

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