Saturday 15 December 2018

Injury-hit Hoops hope to catch Zenit cold

Roberto Mancini preparing his Zenit team at Celtic Park last night Photo: Reuters/Lee Smith
Roberto Mancini preparing his Zenit team at Celtic Park last night Photo: Reuters/Lee Smith Newsdesk Newsdesk

Nir Bitton is likely to be out of action for the rest of the season, Brendan Rodgers revealed as he assessed Celtic's injury-blighted squad prior to tonight's Europa League meeting with Zenit St -Petersburg at Celtic Park in the first leg of their round-of-32 tie.

The Israeli midfielder joins a casualty list that would constitute the better part of a decent domestic team, as the Celtic manager acknowledged when he said: "They could have won a treble last year!"

Others out of contention are Craig Gordon, Anthony Ralston, Dedryck Boyata, Stuart Armstrong, Patrick Roberts, Jonny Hayes and Leigh Griffiths, while Marvin Compper is ineligible. Tom Rogic has been named in the Celtic squad, but will not be fit enough to start.

"Overall, this year has been in terms of injuries, tough," Rodgers said. "Nir Bitton will probably be out for the season which is a blow for us. He has an issue with his knee and probably needs an operation ."

Griffiths aside, the forward options have been relatively unscathed, but Celtic's defence is a concern against a Zenit side who were top scorers of the group stages with 17 goals.

"You are trying to map out with the players, as often as you can, that you have to be concentrated in every single game you play, but sometimes we give away soft goals purely on concentration level, nothing else," Rodgers said. "We have shown we can defend really well and, normally in the big games we do."

Roberto Mancini's men may have superior firepower, but they are coming off a prolonged lay-off since their league fixture away to Akhmat which finished goalless on December 11.

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