BRENDAN RODGERS is hoping to have both Moussa Dembele and Dedryck Boyata in his side on Tuesday night in Athens and is working hard to convince both players to sign new contracts at Celtic.
Jozo Simunovic, who was left on the bench during Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with the Greek Champions is also expected to return as Rodgers looks to field a more experienced side in the crucial Champions League qualifier.
Kristoffer Ajer is suspended after picking up a booking on Wednesday – he had a caution from the Rosenborg tie already – so misses the trip to Athens.
Celtic have been monitoring Dembele carefully and at a push he could be ready for Tuesday. The French striker has once again been troubled by hamstring injuries and his return is perhaps a little pre-mature if he is to play in Athens – – needs must and all that.
Rodgers though will only take the risk in playing Dembele if his medical team give him the all clear.
“We will see how it goes,” Brendan said. “The medical guys have always felt it was going to be a push. We also have to see how Moussa is feeling himself. You can’t put a timeline on these sort of things.
“He is working very hard out on the training field. We will see how he goes. You always have to weigh up the risk.
“You always have to think of the longer term.
“If it was the last game of the season or a cup final then you can maybe look at it, but at this stage of the season, especially off the back of that type of injury, the last thing you want to do is put him out for another six weeks.
“That wouldn’t make sense, everything has to be in balance in terms of risk.”
Dembele’s on-going hamstring problem has clearly dampened the transfer interest in the French player and this could result in a contract extension being agreed.
We have stated on here several times that Dembele loves playing for Celtic and would welcome a new deal and that now looks more likely. And Rodgers has not given up hope on convincing Dedryck Boyata to sign a new deal at Celtic, after the club rejected a huge offer from Fulham this week.
The English window has now closed but the Belgian World Cup star, who last played for Celtic in the Scottish Cup Final, is wanted in Italy and Spain and may push for a move before the month is out.
There has been no further word on the supposedly 85% agreed new contract for Leigh Griffiths. That seemed to be a deal about to be done a few months ago but it has gone quiet – Griffiths too has suffered an early season injury but was back for the Livingston game last weekend and came off the bench in that match as well as the 1-1 draw with AEK.
Griffiths is likely to feature in the lunchtime kick-off tomorrow in the long grass at Tynecastle – Celtic won 3-1 on the day Levein’s side played in long grass in May so not sure why he reckons it gives him an advantage.
Brendan Rodgers at least sees the funny side of the controversy as he joked about not using the lawnmowers all week at Lennoxtown in preparation for the visit to Tynecastle.
“We haven’t cut the grass here all week. I expect it to be the same as it’s been in my time here.
“Everyone wants to see good football whatever the conditions we tend to play in.”