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Ross County defender Alex Iacovitti ready for test against Premiership top scorer Kyogo Furuhashi

The centre-half is targeting his third goal of the season against defending champions Celtic.

Alex Iacovitti. Image: SNS
Alex Iacovitti. Image: SNS

Stopping Celtic’s scoring sensation Kyogo Furuhashi is a challenge Ross County centre-half Alex Iacovitti is ready to rise to once more this Sunday.

The Japan international is the Scottish Premiership’s leading finisher with 20 goals and he’s scored 26 in all competitions this season, including one against County in a 3-1 away win in Dingwall in August.

The Global Energy Stadium is the venue again on Sunday as Ange Postecoglou’s defending champions come calling, looking to add a 10th straight league win to close in on the title.

Star Kyogo ‘comes alive in the box’

Rather than fear going up against sharp-shooter Kyogo, 25-year-old defender Iacovitti cannot wait to try and stop him and his free-scoring team-mates and help County pull away from second-bottom spot. 

He said: “I love playing against the best players, such as Kyogo (Furuhashi), you want to challenge yourself.

“He’s a clever striker, who tends to not get involved in some of the build-ups, but when he’s in the box he is one of the very best in the league.

“He comes alive in the box and you must be super-concentrated against his movement. He doesn’t stop.

“It’s all about communication. You have to know where he is at all times, focus on him and stay with his movement. He is sharp and really good at what he does. That’s why he’s on more than 20 goals this season.

“When we have the ball, we have to be positive.”

Iacovitti aims to ‘give it our best shot’

Having lost 2-1 at Celtic Park and Ibrox this season, having led both times, Iacovitti insists they’ve done their homework and are ready to execute their game plan on home soil.

He said: “The games against the Old Firm have been relatively positive.

“The Celtic game up here earlier in the season was close, even although they won 3-1. They scored two goals in the last five minutes.

“Celtic are a strong team, but at home we back ourselves against anybody. We’ve always done okay against Celtic, so we will give it our best shot.

“We’ve been working hard all week on little things we can do better. We’ll go into the game looking to take all three points. It will be a tough task, but we will give it our best shot.

“The game at Ibrox when we lost 2-1 was a massive sucker-punch when they scored right at the end.

“We’ve also lost 2-1 at Parkhead this season, so we have been in these games, which is good.

“When it gets late in the game, you have to stay concentrated and try not to concede goals, while aiming to be a threat at the other end.

“We have got hope and we will go into it believing in ourselves, especially at home.”

Ross County’s Alex Iacovitti and Livingston’s Cristian Montano. County lost 2-1 at Livi two weeks ago, which is a result which keeps them at the lower reaches of the Premiership. Image: SNS Group

Celtic have lost only once this season

Celtic’s sole slip-up in the league this term came in September when they lost 2-0 at St Mirren.

With that in mind, Iacovitti would relish the chance to help County deliver a second league loss against the red-hot defending champions.

He asked: “St Mirren beat Celtic, who’s to say we can’t?

“We will give it our best shot. We’re hungry for three points and we know we need a win, given where we are in the league.

“All the boys are looking forward to it. It’s at home and we’re relishing the challenge.”

County are looking to get back to winning ways after losing 2-1 at Livingston a fortnight ago to remain second-bottom of the division.

Goal-threat defender wants another

Iacovtti has scored three times against Celtic, including twice this term and he will be looking to provide a threat once more in the visitors’ box when the chance arises.

He added: “I don’t know what it is, I have managed to score three times against Celtic since I’ve been here, two this season and one a couple of seasons ago.

“I want to do whatever I can to help the team out, including from a set-play when I try to get my head on it.”

Scotland showed County way to go

Manager Malky Mackay this week suggested County would be wise to heed to way Scotland beat Spain 2-0 with just 25% possession in Tuesday’s breath-taking night at Hampden.

And it’s a view shared by Iacovitti, who agrees lessons can be learned from that success story.

He said: “Spain are a top team and had a lot of the ball on Tuesday, but Scotland were positive when they had it.

Scotland’s Scott McTominay scored both goals against Spain on Tuesday.  Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

“I listened to (Scotland boss) Steve Clarke and he said it was important when they had the ball, they had to be positive.

“You want to hurt them when you have it. It’s a similar kind of situation and it can be done.

“We’ve done it before. I have been up here three years and I’ve beaten Celtic twice, once at home and once away.

“It’s about giving that belief to the boys and going out and doing it.”