Celtic resigned to losing four key players for Rangers derby clash but could use loophole
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou will not request any of his players be excused from international duty in order to see them available for re-arranged derby at home to Rangers on February 2 – despite the possibility he could lose four of his squad then owing to World Cup qualifiers being played in that window by Japan and Australia.
New signings Daizen Madea and Reo Hatate are likely to be called up along with Kyogo Furuahahi for Japan’s World Cup qualifiers against China on January 27 and Saudi Arabia on February 1. Group rivals Australia, meanwhile, are likely to call on Tom Rogic for ties against Vietnam and Oman on those dates, but Postecoglou is fully accepting of the situation, which would see the quartet also miss the club’s trip to Tynecastle for a meeting with Hearts on January 26, and a home encounter against Dundee United three days later.
One option available to Celtic is to use an SPFL rulebook loophole which allows a club to request a postponement to a league match if it has three or more players unavailable for the fixture due to international call-ups. The match against Rangers had been due to be played on January 2, but was rescheduled due to the Scottish Government bringing in restrictions on crowds owning to the recent surge in omicron coronavirus cases.
“It has been in our planning for a while,” said Postecoglou. “We have known that they are going to be away in that period if they get selected. I totally understand that whatever fixtures we have in that period they are likely to miss out.
“These are World Cup games so there are no negotiations. Both teams have important qualifiers and World Cups are important for every country irrespective of where you come from. We are obliged to release them and we will.”
Meanwhile, Postecoglou believes it was a sensible decision to bring forward the winter shutdown instead of playing the derby in front of 500 supporters under current restrictions, which he is hopeful will have eased in a month’s time.
“It’s disappointing [the game could not be played in front of a full house on January 2] but hopefully we still get that,” he said with reference to playing the fixture with a capacity crowd on February 2,” the Celtic manager said. “That’s the whole idea of coming to this common-sense approach that I am pleased the clubs and the league agreed on. It just makes sense for everybody. I don’t think there will be a manager anywhere who wants to play behind closed doors anymore.
“I think we have had that experience and it’s certainly one we don’t want to revisit. It is to be hoped the measures taken now can help us avoid that. Credit to everyone for coming to the decision. Let’s hope when we get back playing we are in front of fans in stadiums, the atmosphere we all like to enjoy.”