Carl Starfelt determined to recover Celtic lost time as he relishes defensive competition

The Celtic squad will be spending the next week or so with the feet up by the pool after a gruelling run of games in the Premiership and Champions League.

Well, not all of them. Carl Starfelt admits his holiday is on hold as he’s still playing catch-up after missing a big chunk of the season through injury. The big Swede is preparing to spend the next fortnight doing the hard yards to make sure he’s up to speed when the players go to a training camp in Portugal to gear up for their Premiership return.

You are reading: Carl Starfelt determined to recover Celtic lost time as he relishes defensive competition

It has been a frustrating campaign for Starfelt so far after getting crocked on international duty in June then suffering a knee injury just four games into his comeback. The centre-back missed out on his dream of playing in the Champions League and had to sit back while Moritz Jenz slotted in beside Cameron Carter-Vickers at the heart of the Hoops defence.

The injury was a cruel blow to the stopper having recovered from a ropey start at the Celts to emerge as one of the key men in the title win. But the prospect of picking up where he left off last term will drive him on in the coming weeks after he got some more vital time on the pitch in Australia in Celtic’s Sydney Super Cup clashes with Sydney FC and Everton.

Starfelt said: “It was warm out there but I didn’t think too much about it at the time. It was all about fitness for me. I was delighted with every minute. I need to get up to 100 per cent match fitness.

“I am happy with this little break and I can really put in a shift and get my match fitness back. It won’t be a holiday for me. The team is taking 10 days off but I will keep working as I need it.

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“I haven’t played a lot of football in six months because of injury and I will work hard to get my fitness back. I will basically keep training. I will go away as well but I will train where I am.”

Starfelt admitted it was brutal to be stuck in the stands and in the treatment room while his Celtic pals were enjoying a thrilling start to the domestic season and pitting their wits against the cream of the continent.

Carl Starfelt

“The pre-season was tough,” said Starfelt. “I thought I would get back when the season started and then the second blow was really tough. But I’m back on the pitch now for Celtic and I’m really happy about that.

“Obviously, it’s tough, especially with the Champions League and missing a lot of games – that was something I was looking forward to a lot. I am just happy to be back and looking forward.”

Starfelt is out to make up for lost time – and he’s looking forward to being reunited with defensive partner Carter-Vickers. The pair were a rock last season and it has been hard for the Swede to sit on the sidelines while others have stepped in.

The former Rubin Kazan man knows he has a fight on his hands. It will get even tougher with gaffer Ange Postecoglou believed to looking at drafting in Japan centre-back Yuki Kobayashi in the new year.

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Starfelt welcomes the fight. He believes the more the merrier in the Hoops squad as the battle for places can only boost the side.

Yuki Kobayashi of Vissel Kobe (Image: Getty Images)

He said: “Yes, it is good. We have really good players and it makes for strong competition, not only in the centre-back positions but almost every position. That is how the manager wants it and that is how you push the players to never relax and always try to improve their game. I think that is what’s happening.

“The competition for places brings out the best in every player and you can never relax as you have to be at it all the time and that is a good thing for sure. You will always have good players coming into form replacing the ones who are out of form. It is a positive.”

Starfelt will spend the break building his fitness and insists there will be no let up when the Hoops return. Celts are out of Europe but the defender is adamant there will be a Champions League style desire in the second half of the campaign.

He said: “It really was demanding but the whole season has been like that so far for us with a lot of European games. We played two games every week and pushed on well in the league. We want to be in the Champions League and perform there so we can never drop our standards.”

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