Hibs won't get Sol back for Celtic showdown

HIBS won't have Sol Bamba back for Wednesday night's showdown with Celtic despite the Ivory Coast's shock exit from the African Cup of Nations, boss John Hughes revealed today.

Bamba will be on his way back to Edinburgh after the bitter disappointment of a 3-2 extra-time defeat by Algeria in last night's quarter-final in Angola.

But, while Hughes expects the big defender to be available for the visit of St Mirren on Saturday, he believes it would be asking too much for Bamba to return in time to travel to Celtic Park.

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And Hughes, who watched the drama unfold on television, admitted he'd have to assess the mental state of the former Dunfermline stopper after the crushing defeat suffered by the tournament favourites.

"Les Elephants" appeared to have their place in the semi-finals secured when Kader Keita fired them 2-1 ahead in the last minute of the match in Cabinda but Rangers ace Madjid Bougherra headed home a stunning equaliser.

Blackpool's Hameur Bouazza then left Bamba and his team-mates in a state of shock as he claimed what proved to be the winner two minutes into extra-time, leaving Algeria to face either defending champions Egypt or Cameroon in the semi-finals.

While Bamba will be back in a green-and-white shirt a little earlier than anticipated, Hughes shared his player's agony. He said: "I'm really disappointed for the big fella. I don't know what the travel plans are for the Ivory Coast and, while you never know with Sol, I think it would be a bit soon to expect him back and ready to play on Wednesday night. I would, though, anticipate him being here by the weekend but I'd then have to watch him, to put an arm around him and assess his mental state. It may be he'll need a bit of a rest."

Meanwhile, Hughes explained his decision to "go public" on his belief Hibs can claim third place – and a spot in next season's Europa League – having avoided such talk thus far.

He said: "It wasn't an off-the-cuff remark, I had told the players that they have to stand up and be counted. I don't want any excuses, no-one saying they didn't know what we were after. Everyone knows what we are playing for, that third place and, hopefully, Europe."