It was never in the plan to include Paulo Bernardo and Nat Phillips in yesterday’s Celtic squad at Ibrox, Brendan Rodgers revealed on the day.
With the injury and performance concerns in the build-up to the derby against Rangers, it was understandable that some fans expected last week’s signings to be drafted into the squad – if not as starters, then on the bench.
In the end, only winger Luis Palma was included in the group and he didn’t make a substitute debut off of the bench given the tight nature of the game in the second half.
Rodgers explained to BBC Radio Scotland that Phillips’ absence was in consultation with Liverpool medical staff and that Bernardo simply isn’t ready – with the youngster now heading off on international duty.
The Bhoys boss said: “Both players, they haven’t had a lot of game time in pre-season. Nat comes in, and we’d spoken to Liverpool before signing him and that was one of the considerations that we had, he was going to be ready after the international break. We have to respect that – he’s a Liverpool player but after the next couple of weeks he’ll be fine to be involved.
“And Paulo as well, he’s had no football over the course of pre-season he has trained. We have to look at him. He’ll go away with the Portugal under-21 and hopefully get some game time and then come back and we’ll assess it from there.”
Portugal have Euro qualification matches against Andorra and Belarus on the horizon and Bernardo is indeed expected to be involved. He has five goals in 16 appearances for his country at that age level. It would be fantastic for him to get some minutes into his leg before his first real stint at Celtic.
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As for Phillips, he may well have competition on his hands to earn a spot in the team after Liam Scales performed so well at Ibrox yesterday. The Liverpool man could well come into the team at the expense of Gustaf Lagerbielke at this rate.
With Rodgers not including any of his late window signings in the match against Rangers, Celtic are in good shape over this two-week period to get them up to speed and ready for action. Fans are looking forward to seeing how they fare.