Rodgers: Injured Bitton will miss rest of the season
NIR Bitton has been added to Celtic’s extensive list of casualties after Brendan Rodgers revealed the Hoops midfielder’s season is over.
The Israel internationalist requires surgery to correct a knee injury that he has toiled with in recent weeks.
His absence will be a blow to Rodgers who already has a host of players out injured.
“Bitton will probably be out for the season which is a blow for us,” said Rodgers. “He has an issue with his knee and probably needs an operation.
“In terms of injuries overall, this year has been tough for us but it is a shame for him because he has been an important member of our squad.
“We are hoping some of the others will be back sooner rather than later.
“It’s a slight issue with his knee that he has put himself through.
“We had a look at it last week in London and it was deemed he needs the operation on it.”
Tom Rogic has returned to full training but Rodgers has confirmed that the Australian midfielder will not start the game against Zenit tonight.
Neither will Patrick Roberts with Celtic waiting on clearance from his parent club Manchester City before he is given the green light to play again after two successive hamstring injuries.
“Tom is back training now, Pat won’t be involved,” explained Rodgers. “He is getting clearance on his hamstring injury so he has gone back to Manchester City to make sure everything is okay.”
Kristoffer Ajer is expected to partner Jozo Simunovic tonight, with Dedryck Boyata also out. Ajer has come to the fore in recent months but as a relatively inexperienced 19-year-old, he will be required to hold his nerve against Zenit. There has been a perennial question mark this term over whether or not Celtic ought to have signed further defensive cover – Marvin Compper is still injured but would have been ineligible for this game in any case – but Rodgers believes getting the best out of young players means they play at this level.
“It’s a work in progress,” he said. “We have to be real, you are not going to get a 25 or 26-year-old centre-half who is at the top of his game, they won’t be here.
“So at Celtic, you are either going to have a young player that you are nurturing and putting into these situations to be better, such as [Jozo] Simunovic,Ajer, [Jack] Hendry, to be better.
“Or you have the centre-halves at the other end towards the end of their careers with that experience.
“We are always going to have to have that. Celtic won’t be able to spend £20 million on a 26-year-old centre half, so the only way you can work it is by giving them coaching and experience.
“Of course, it is a harsh environment to be trying to learn in, but that’s where we are at and we have to always find ways to help the players improve.
“Hendry is a boy who, in time, will be ready for that. He’ll be involved in the squad. This is the job. You have to develop them and get them through.”
Nir Bitton expected to miss rest of season