Losing Beram Kayal would be a ‘huge blow’ says Neil Lennon

CELTIC manager Neil Lennon believes losing midfielder Beram Kayal for the rest of the season would represent a significant setback to their hopes of maintaining the momentum which has seen them move to the top of the SPL.

Israeli international midfielder Kayal will undergo surgery on his right ankle in London on Monday and could be ruled out of action for four months. The 23-year-old sustained the injury during Celtic’s 1-0 win over Rangers on 28 December and was initially expected to be sidelined for no more than four weeks. But a second scan has revealed cartilage and ligament damage which are likely to keep him out for a much longer period.

Kayal’s return to form, after ending speculation over his future by signing a new contract in October, has been a major factor in Celtic’s run of 10 straight SPL victories which has seen them turn a 15-point deficit into a two-point lead over Rangers.

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“It would be a huge blow for me and the player and the club itself,” said Lennon as he considered the prospect of being without Kayal for the title run-in. “It’s no co-incidence that our recent run has come after Beram signed a new contract. He’s a pivotal player for us. But what I will say is that midfield is the one area where we have got real quality strength and depth. No one likes to lose a player for any concerted period of time. We’ve been unfortunate with these injuries this season.

“Beram’s operation is on Monday, he could be out for four months or we could get better news. We’re just not sure the extent of it yet.”

Lennon absolved Rangers midfielder Lee McCulloch, who challenged Kayal in the incident which led to the injury, of any blame.

“It was a good challenge between two committed players,” said Lennon. “The way Beram’s ankle has turned, there is a bit of cartilage floating about in there and ligament damage as well.”

Kayal’s injury will make Lennon doubly determined to retain South Korean midfielder Ki Sung Yueng. Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish has confirmed his interest, albeit while adding he believes he does not have the necessary funds to do a deal.

Lennon says he does not expect any of his players to be sold during the January transfer window unless Celtic receive bids they simply cannot refuse.

“I’m not under any pressure to sell,” added Lennon. “The board have been great in that aspect. Every player has his price but unless we get a knockout offer no one will be leaving.

“If that kind of offer happens, we’ll sit down and discuss it with the board, myself and Peter (Lawwell) and we’ll do what’s best for the club. I’m sure there will be a lot of speculation regarding players. There already is. But I want to keep this squad together and we don’t envisage players leaving.”