The soundtrack of the week ahead for Celtic really ought to be La Marseillaise.
It is likely that their recent loan capture French teenager Odsonne Edouard will make his debut for the club tonight in Hamilton, while fellow countryman Moussa Dembele isn’t believed far away from a return following six weeks sidelined with a hamstring injury.
This evening’s Premiership duties for Brendan Rodgers’ men have been completely overshadowed by the fact they will open up their Champions League group campaign in Glasgow on Tuesday against £366 million worth of Paris-Saint Germain forward line in Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. And the fact the Scottish champions will do so with sufficient central defensive issues to have the Celtic faithful exclaiming “sacre bleu”.
Rodgers is refusing to fret about the fact that Leigh Griffiths will miss out tonight after taking a knock on his troublesome calf playing for Scotland. “He thinks he’ll be fine [for Tuesday] and so do the medical team.”
Equally, Rodgers is refusing to fret over the fact that Jozo Simunovic represents his only fit senior centre-back who, in part as the result of his aversion to plastic pitches, has not played in a month. That situation means Simunovic won’t be sitting out Hamilton’s much-maligned synthetic surface… however much he might like to do so.
Rodgers maintained the non-appearance of late by Simunovic, who did not feature last week for Bosnia-Herzegovina, had nothing to do with his losing focus after reported £10m offers for him from Burnley and Torino.
The Celtic boss did, though, reveal that the 23-year-old had not been protected from the artificial pitch at Astana’s home stadium in the return leg of the club’s successful Champions League play-off.
“He just didn’t feel he was going to be fit enough to play. But it’s OK. He’s a good guy, he’s a tough boy, but there are some players who find the plastic tough to play on,” said the Irishman.
“But he’s been away for a couple of weeks, he’s trained, he hasn’t played, so he’s itching and raring to go now.
“It was nothing to do with [any transfer activity] at all. He declared himself unfit. That’s the simple truth of it. So if he says he’s not fit to play, you can’t do anything.
Dedryck Boyata is set to resume training at the weekend and Erik Sviatchenko will do so shortly. The fact that both will be available for the majority of the Champions League campaign leaves Rodgers believing that he will soon have more workable central defensive options at his disposal. Even if he wanted them to be greater.
“It was clear we wanted a centre-half and [Rivaldo] Coetzee was a player who was young but had good experience and who came highly recommended to us. So we were disappointed for the youngster. Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to happen [the South African failed a medical].
“We tried one or two other thing late on once that fell through but I wasn’t just looking at a number. We looked at Jason Denayer but he had already made a promise to go back to Turkey three months ago and we respected that he didn’t want to break his word. He has history here and would have done well. I didn’t want to just bring in a centre-half, it needed to be a certain profile, a certain type. I am not one for stockpiling players. We were offered young centre-halves but that isn’t really what we needed when we have some ally promising young players here in Anthony Ralston and Kristoffer Ajer and we can move things about until we get the right ones.”