CELTIC have suffered a double injury blow ahead of next week’s Europa League showdown against Inter Milan with Kris Commons and Mikael Lustig both all but certain to miss out.
Playmaker Commons and right-back Lustig limped out of Saturday’s Scottish Cup win at Dundee with thigh and ankle problems respectively. Commons is expected to be sidelined for up to a fortnight, while Lustig’s recovery is likely to take longer. It means both men, key performers for the Scottish champions, are doubtful for next Thursday’s first leg against Inter at Celtic Park and the return fixture seven days later.
“They are two of our more experienced players, so it’s disappointing,” said Celtic manager Ronny Deila. “Kris has a grade one pulled muscle on the back of his thigh which will take one to two weeks to heal. We hope he could still make it for the Inter game, but we will see. It will be about treatment, training and rest for him now - he is in very good hands with the medical side of things here now.
“It will be a little bit longer for Mikael. But you never know with a twisted ankle – it could go quicker. We just have to monitor it. It’s very unfortunate for Mikael, because he has just returned and was playing well after a long time out with a groin injury and now he has a different problem.”
The absence of Commons could open the door for either Stuart Armstrong or Gary Mackay-Steven to make their debut for Celtic tonight when they face Partick Thistle in a rescheduled Premiership fixture at Firhill. Deila has been impressed by how both players have settled in at the club since they were signed from Dundee United in a £2 million deal on transfer deadline day last week.
“It’s nice to get two players into the squad who are so fit and ready to play already,” said Deila. “Credit to Dundee United for that. Both have shown already they have qualities which Celtic needs. They are also good human beings.
“Both players are closer to making a quick impact for us than when you bring in a foreign player. They have the experience of playing against Celtic and we can see the quality in both of them.”
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One player whose impact for Celtic has diminished severely in recent weeks is Swedish international John Guidetti. The on-loan Manchester City striker scored 11 goals in his first 12 appearances for Deila’s side and was regarded as the biggest potential boost to Celtic’s squad for the knockout phase of the Europa League after being ineligible for the group stage.
But Guidetti has failed to score in his last nine outings for Celtic, dropping behind Leigh Griffiths in the front line pecking order. Deila admits that talks on a permanent deal for the 22-year-old beyond the end of this season have been placed on hold. “We don’t want a player who doesn’t want to be here, that’s for sure,” said Deila. “But if he wants it and comes back, then we will start talking again. But again it is good for him that we don’t talk about it just now. He doesn’t want to talk about it and we try to make each other happy. I think a lot has been going on in John’s mind, but he now has the right focus. In the last three weeks, he has been working really hard and I know he will come again. Before that, the intensity wasn’t where I wanted it. But I think he now understands what it is all about. He will progress and come back at the level he was.
“Everyone also has to remember that he had been out for two years with injuries before. He came here with a lot of energy and with nothing to lose out on the pitch.
“Now things have gone a little bit down but he will come again. I understand people put a question mark on it. But I know from my experience it is not just a case of coming back and things going one way. There are going to be downs. When you are young, everything can feel okay and you are flying. But that is why young players have good spells and then bad spells.”