Celtic will be without Dedryck Boyata once again for the first leg of their Europa League play-off against Suduva tonight but manager Brendan Rodgers stressed that there is a medical issue with the Belgium international
The 27-year-old defender was sent to train with the under-20s after claiming an injury led to him missing the Champions League qualifying defeat at AEK Athens last Tuesday while Rodgers claimed he was fit.
Boyata returned to training with his team-mates this week following a clear-the-air chat with Rodgers and skipper Scott Brown but missed the trip to Lithuania along with fellow defender Jack Hendry and French striker Odsonne Edouard.
The former Swansea and Liverpool boss revealed there is interest in Boyata, who was the subject of a failed £9 million bid from Fulham before the English transfer window closed and who has been linked with Sevilla.
Rodgers said: “Dedryck Boyata isn’t here. There are still issues with him physically. We’re at a stage in the season where we can’t afford to take any real risks on players if they’re not physically right to be here.
“He has a problem with his back that he struggled with last week. Overall his fitness, in terms of being ready to come in, isn’t there.
“If he doesn’t feel right, and this is what we’re gauging him on, then I can’t afford to play him. I need the players who are going to be physically and mentally right for us because they’re really important for us.
“It’s very simple and it’s closed now. He had a meeting with the captain and myself. We all spoke about where we were at and wanted to move on from it.
“We only want good players but, more importantly, we only want good attitudes in the group and that was something that was very clear.
“He’s trained the last few days with the squad but deems himself not quite right physically to participate in the games.”
“Edouard is still recovering,” added Rodgers. “He’s working well and it’ll probably be the beginning of next week.
“Jack Hendry played with a really sore ankle at the weekend and isn’t available for the game.”
Rodgers admitted disappointment at crashing out of the Champions League in the third qualifying round – “you can’t deny that” – but is keen to make sure Celtic reach the group stages of the Europa League.
He said: “We want to ensure we make no mistakes over these two games, get qualification and then there’s going to be a lot of real football rewards in that for us. That’s something we’re very determined to do. We want to ensure we’re in those group stages come the end of next week.”