Rodgers: In­jured Bit­ton will miss rest of the sea­son

Evening Times - - SPORT - By ALI­SON McCON­NELL

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

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