Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers insists Mikael Lustig will remain an integral part of his treble-chasing side for the rest of this season when he returns from a suspension now set to rule him out of the Old Firm showdown at Ibrox on 11 March.
Swedish international defender Lustig, who has attracted criticism from Celtic supporters in recent weeks for a slump in form, was sent off for the first time in his six years with the club during last Sunday’s 2-0 win at Aberdeen.
The 31-year-old was due to serve an automatic one-match Premiership ban by sitting out last night’s postponed home game against Dundee. But unless that fixture is rescheduled for next midweek, Lustig will instead miss the game against Rangers on Sunday week. He will be eligible for this Saturday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final against Morton in any event as the suspension is competition-specific.
“It was just unfortunate for Mika that he got sent off at Pittodrie,” said Rodgers. “He is a great servant for me. He has put himself out there since I came to Celtic. He struggled with injuries earlier but since I’ve come in, the game time he has played for me has been fantastic.
“As I say, he was unfortunate last Sunday but it’s another chance for someone else to come in when he is suspended. That’s what happens when you get a red card.”
Lustig, who is under contract to Celtic until the end of next season, faces a demanding schedule this year after helping Sweden reach the World Cup finals in Russia this summer. He is set to be involved in friendly matches against Chile and Romania for his country at the end of March as they prepare to face Germany, Mexico and South Korea in the June finals.
It will cut short Lustig’s time off before Celtic return to European action in early July but Rodgers has dismissed any notion of resting the player at any stage of the remaining three months of the domestic campaign.
“He has to keep going,” added Rodgers. “My priority is Celtic and I need to have as many players available as possible.”