Udinese's Mehdi Benatia fit to Celtic despite car crash

Mehdi Benatia and Pablo Armero
Benatia is fit while Armero is on top form ahead of Celtic's visit

Udinese defender Mehdi Benatia is expected to be available for Thursday's Europa League showdown with Celtic despite being involved in a car crash.

The 24-year-old Morocco international was close to the Italian club's stadium when he lost control of his Audi TT.

It reportedly hit a car travelling in the opposite direction before crashing into a lamppost.

However, although both vehicles were severely damaged, Benatia and the other car's occupants escaped uninjured.

Banatia had been in the Udinese defence as they defeated Chievo 2-1 on Sunday to go top of Serie A - if only for just over 24 hours.

Juventus regained the lead on goal difference after Giorgio Chiellini cancelled out Daniele De Rossi's early opener on Monday evening.

But Udinese's third domestic victory in-a-row should ensure that Francesco Guidolin's side go into the final Europa League Group I game at home to Celtic full of confidence.

Antonio Di Natale, who has since pleaded to retain his place after being rested in Europa League matches this season, put them in front midway through the second half.

Dusan Basta doubled their lead 10 minutes from time before Alberto Paloschi pulled one back in the 83rd minute.

Guidolin said afterwards that qualifying for the next stage of the Europa League was crucial, as he hoped to persuade the club's board to not only strengthen the team in January but build a new stadium.

However, the coach admitted that his young side had to be wary of a more experienced Celtic squad who will arrive in Italy knowing that they must win to join table-topping Atletico Madrid in progressing from Group I.

"Thinking about Celtic, I'm worried by their international experience," Guidolin told his club website about the side with whom they drew 1-1 in Glasgow in September.

"It's what they have more than us. They're strong, but we'll try to do everything we can to win."

Guidolin praised Serbian wide man Basta, who has returned to the side after a season out through injury, for his goal against Chievo.

It was the performance of Colombia international Pablo Armero, though, that most pleased the Udinese coach.

"Armero is unbelievable," said the coach. "Armero is devastating.

"If he gets better, he can become an absolute number one. He's got few equals."

Armero, a winger who has been playing in defence, revealed that the "talented coach" was a hard task-master and would have the players back at training on Monday despite their Sunday victory.

"He asked us to turn the page and focus on Celtic," said the former Palmeiras player.

"We are keeping our feet on the ground, because we haven't done anything yet."

Swedish midfielder Ekstrand, who was also praised by Guidolin for his recent rare starts for the side, indicated that confidence and determination was oozing through the club as they sought the point they need to qualify.

"We are hungry," he said. "We can give a hard time to everybody when we are so determined.

"We are a young team, but we have the right attitude.

"We are focusing on the next opponent already - Celtic."

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