Goalkeeper Ofir Marciano will miss next Saturday’s trip to Celtic on religious grounds, having informed manager Neil Lennon that his primary focus that weekend will be on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year in Judaism.
The Day of Atonement, which starts next Friday evening and ends on Saturday night is dedicated to prayer and involves 25 hours of fasting, which rules the Israeli international, pictured, out of the Premiership clash with the defending champions.
Now Lennon will also have to reassess his goalkeeping options.
“Ofir came to me a couple of months ago about that and it’s one of those things,” he said. “You have to respect the players’ faith. It is more important to him, more important than football, and you have to respect that. It is the full day of fasting and for them it is a bit like their Christmas Day, if you want to call it that, and we will lose him for the game against Celtic.”
The run of games that follow in the wake of today’s fixture will test the entire squad, the Celtic encounter being the opener ahead of home matches against Aberdeen and Hearts providing the bread in a League Cup semi-final sandwich.
Defender Lewis Stevenson believes that despite Yom Kippur and injuries, there is still enough quality in the squad to ensure that they will pose stiff opposition regardless who they come up against. He was one of those sidelined in recent weeks, after the bright start was dulled by a disappointing performance and defeat by Hamilton. But after three games he was reinstalled at his favoured left-back berth for Tuesday’s League Cup quarter-final win.
“I always want to play but, to be fair, the boys played well against St Johnstone and Dundee so I had no qualms about being on the bench for those two performances,” said Stevenson.
“It is not like I was being dropped for just anyone, it was a Scotland international full-back [Steven Whittaker].”
“I think the number of international players we have shows the strength of the squad.
“We have two Scottish internationals, an Israeli one, two Lithuanians and Efe [Ambrose] is on the brink of a Nigeria call-up. Paul Hanlon may not be far away from a Scotland call-up. When I first came in it was a strong squad but I think this is as strong as we have had. But the squad is only as strong as our performances each weekend so I will only be able to tell you next summer how strong it really is.”