Celtic predicted line-up as injuries and new signings factor into Dundee selection
The Northern Irishman has been without four centre-backs including his first-choice pairing of Cameron Carter-Vickers and Maik Nawrocki, while Reo Hatate, one of the stars of the treble-winning season under Ange Postecoglou, has also been sidelined along with several others.
Now another key player, winger Liel Abada, has been ruled out for up to four months after tearing his thigh muscle while on international duty with Israel last week in a further blow for Rodgers.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel for the Celtic boss with some players edging closer to a return while three new faces are now ready to come into the equation after being signed in the final week of the transfer window.
Late arrivals Luis Palma, Paulo Bernardo and Nat Phillips did not feature in the 1-0 win over Rangers at Ibrox prior to the international break, but could make their debuts against Dundee on Saturday, either from the start or off the bench.
Hatate has also returned to training along with winger Marco Tilio, who is expected to build up his minutes slowly after missing pre-season following his summer move from Melbourne City, and defender Yuki Kobayashi.
While far from full strength, Rodgers still has plenty of options at his disposal for the home cinch Premiership fixture against Dundee on Saturday, even if he chooses to rotate his starting line-up ahead of the trip to Feyenoord for the opening Champions League group game just three days later.
The arrival of Phillips on loan from Liverpool alleviates the pressure on the defence with the 26-year-old, who has Champions League experience, likely to start in the Netherlands on Tuesday. Rodgers would likely prefer Phillips to get some game-time before that big showdown so it would be no surprise to see him start against Dundee, even accounting for the excellent display from a makeshift centre-back pairing in the 1-0 win at Ibrox.
Liam Scales was man of the match in that encounter, and with Phillps a right-footed centre-half, it would be no surprise to him paired alongside the left-footed Irishman, with Gustaf Lagerbielke, signed from Elfsborg during the summer, the one to drop out.
Captain Callum McGregor looks a prime candidate to be rested after playing 180 demanding minutes for Scotland during the past week, but his metronomic qualities and importance to the Celtic team are such that it would be a surprise if he sat out. But if the result is in the bag early enough, fellow midfielder Odim Thiago Holm could provide him with a breather in the second half off the bench.
Kyogo Furushashi is another who got significant game-time for his country in midweek - playing the full 90 minutes of Japan's 4-2 win over Turkey on Tuesday - while Daizen Maeda played the second half. Both players will be likely to start against Dundee with the option of handing Honduras international Palma his debut off the bench more likely given he played and scored in his country’s 4-0 win over Grenada as recently as Wednesday.
With Abada injured, it would seem likely that Korean youngster Yang Hyun-Jun will start after earning his first international cap during the week on the back of some encouraging early season displays for Celtic. There is the possibility of youngster Bernardo – the season-long loan arrival from Benfica – being thrown in from the start but a more likely scenario would see David Turnbull keep his place with the 21-year-old handed his debut as a substitute. Given the length of time Hatate has been out, an appearance off the bench would also seem the more likely scenario for the Japanese midfielder.
Celtic predicted XI v Dundee (4-3-3): Hart; Johnston, Phillips, Scales, Taylor; McGregor, O'Riley, Turnbull; Yang, Furuhashi, Maeda.
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