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Aug 1, 2010

Maloney: Bhoys must keep hold of senior stars

Celtic midfielder Shaun Maloney has told Soccernet he hopes the club manage to retain the services of both Aiden McGeady and Georgios Samaras in order to further their chances of reclaiming the SPL title this season.

Shaun Maloney interview

Spartak Moscow are believed to be the club that have made what manager Neil Lennon described as a "big bid" for McGeady, while Greek striker Georgios Samaras has been the subject of interest from Spanish club Hercules.

The pair displayed their value to Celtic on Saturday at the Emirates Cup when McGeady produced a lively performance on his first start of pre-season and Samaras scored a last-minute equaliser in a 2-2 draw with Lyon.

While Rangers continue to shed players due to their parlous financial state, Maloney hopes Celtic retain Samaras and McGeady, who have proved themselves to be leading members of the squad in recent seasons.

"I think the club would like to keep hold of their more important players," Maloney told Soccernet, "and those two are quite experienced now and more often than not in our starting XI.

"So it would be good to start the season with those two, but I guess we will have to wait and see.

"We've brought in a few players, and it will take time everyone to gel, but to be fair that's nothing new in pre-season."

Although Rangers have won the title for the past two seasons under Walter Smith, it is Celtic who are odds-on favourites to triumph in the SPL this season, no doubt due to the financial restrictions that inhibit Smith's endeavours at Ibrox.

The loan of French midfielder Jerome Rothen is the only noticeable transfer the club have concluded in the past 12 months, while this summer alone they have seen Kris Boyd, Kevin Thomson and Danny Wilson leave Glasgow, among others.

However, Maloney is still expecting a formidable challenge from Rangers and believes the Old Firm rivalry will be more intense than ever this season.

"I think the pressure is going to be there to win the league, as it is every season, but I think it will be intensified by Rangers winning the league for the last couple of years," Maloney said. "We are looking forward to it but we are under no illusions about what to expect.

"I don't know if it is down to the financial side. I don't think we think like that because of the way that their finances are. To be fair to them, they have kept the majority of their starting XI that won the league last year so they have still got a good team and they will still be competitive.

"After all they are the champions. It's going to be very difficult, but like I say the pressure is going to be there for us to wrestle that title away from them."

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