Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers backs Kris Ajer to face Rangers

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers claims Kristoffer Ajer's conversion from boy to man has put him in the frame for Saturday's game against Rangers.

Celtic's Kristoffer Ajer impressed in the 3-0 win over Aberdeen. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

The 19-year-old Norwegian defender, signed from Start in 2016, was sent on loan to Kilmarnock last season. Ajer was impressive in the 3-0 home win over Aberdeen – his fourth appearance in December – while Jozo Simunovic and Nir Bitton, both of whom have partnered Dedryck Boyata, sat on the bench.

Celtic travel to Dundee on Boxing Day before next weekend’s visit of Rangers. Asked if Ajer was up to playing in the white-hot atmosphere of an Old Firm game at Parkhead, Rodgers replied: “It doesn’t matter for me what age someone is – it is just picking the best team each game to get a result.

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“I would have no hesitation. He has all the qualities – it is just about getting him the experience. I thought he was brilliant. I said afterwards in the changing room to all the players, this is a boy that when I came in last year was 18, 6ft 5in but just needed some men’s football. We sent him to Kilmarnock and he was taught very well by Lee McCulloch and Lee Clark, and when he came in the summer he was a man.

“He was physically developed and he played in some of the Champions League games early on.

“He is fast, he can carry the ball and you see how he wins his aerial challenges as well so he is a big prospect for us.”

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes revealed Stevie May will be out until after the winter break with an ankle injury picked up against Rangers earlier in the month. Rangers midfielder Ryan Jack was sent off for his tackle on the Dons striker, who featured subsequently against St Johnstone and Hearts but has suffered a setback.