Celtic defender Cameron Carter-Vickers will miss Saturday’s derby against Rangers but Liel Abada and Reo Hatate are likely to be on the bench following lengthy periods out.
Carter-Vickers went off during the Boxing Day win over Dundee with a tight hamstring and manager Brendan Rodgers confirmed the centre-back would not be available for the next two games.
Rodgers said: “It’s not longer term but you probably won’t see him until after the winter break.
“It is (a blow) of course but I always think it’s an opportunity for someone else. We had it in the last game (against Rangers) when Gustaf (Lagerbielke) and Liam Scales came into the team and for Liam it was the making of him.
“It’s always a sadness when you lose a top player but he will be back after this break and can hopefully stay clear of injury for the second half of the season.”
Rodgers has backed Stephen Welsh to fill the void after making a positive contribution in recent weeks following a lengthy spell out with an ankle injury.
“Stephen played against Feyenoord and played very, very well,” Rodgers said. “I really liked seeing him.
“I brought him with me as a young player when I was here first time round. He was only a kid then and he has really matured. He maybe hasn’t played as much as he would have liked but only because of the form of Cam and Carl Starfelt when he was here.
“That was the challenge for him but he has always been there as a loyal support to play and I know that I can trust him when I put him in.
“So if he is the guy that gets the chance to play then I have every faith that he can perform.”
— Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) December 29, 2023
Abada last featured in Celtic’s 1-0 Ibrox win on September 3 before suffering a thigh injury while training with Israel, and Hatate has been out for two months with a hamstring problem.
Rodgers said: “They have trained, Liel a little bit longer. We don’t want to rush them but if they come through then they will be involved in the squad.
“They are excited to be back. I am just mindful of the stage they are at but they have shown up well in training, they want to be involved, and hopefully they have come through with no ill-effects.
“They are both very good performers. Liel is a goalscorer who plays wide. His record goals to games is very good. He just wants to get back on the field again, it’s been a challenging few months for him with injury and everything else. But he looks really good in training and if I need him then I will be happy to do that. And Reo is a big talent so it will be great to have him back.”
There will be no visiting fans at Celtic Park but Rodgers is excited about the atmosphere ahead of his first home derby against Rangers since September 2018, when Olivier Ntcham got the only goal for the hosts.
“These are amazing games, it’s such an iconic game to be involved in,” he said. “We got a great result at Ibrox and now we are in front of our own supporters so we are really excited by it.
“It’s a fantastic game to be involved in, the atmosphere will be electric and that’s what I really can’t wait for. But it’s up to us to provide the intensity and urgency.
“There’s a real pressure about the game but I have always enjoyed seeing the team perform in that pressure.”
Rangers are unbeaten in 16 games under Philippe Clement and are five points behind the cinch Premiership leaders with two games in hand.
“Philippe has done very well since coming in,” Rodgers said. “He has come in with experience and common sense in terms of setting up the team. All the players together know their job and you can see they have benefited from that. They have good players.
“I am looking forward to the game because it should be a football game. The last few weeks we have played against back fives and teams sitting low in the field. This should hopefully be a really good football game.”