Celtic defender Hatem Abd Elhamed unlikely to be fit for Rangers clash

By David Walton

December 24, 2019

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has today stated that Hatem Abd Elhamed is unlikely to return for the Rangers game.

The big Israeli hasn’t played since last month’s 2-1 win in Lazio. A nasty groin problem has seen him miss important games against the likes of Rangers, Aberdeen, and Rennes respectively.

In his place, Jeremie Frimpong has been excelling, earning rave reviews on a weekly basis for his displays. But there’s always been some hope that Elhamed would be able to be fit for the December 29th crunch clash with Steven Gerrard’s side.

Hatem Abd Elhamed has missed over a month-and-a-half of action (Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Unfortunately, Lenny just about put an end to any hope of that at today’s press conference. Speaking via Celtic TV, he provided an update on Elhamed’s situation with a brief statement:

“Elhamed’s not a million miles away, but it just may be too soon for him before the break.”

It’s all set up for Frimpong on the 29th

Even if Elhamed did make a miraculous recovery, it would still be over seven weeks since he had last played a game of football by the time the Rangers match comes around.

Putting the Israeli into that environment would be a recipe for disaster given his lack of game-time. As reliable as Elhamed is, it would be wise to rest him up before playing him after the winter break.

Elhamed was brilliant at Ibrox (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Frimpong must be itching for some individual revenge. Sure, he got his Betfred Cup winner’s medal at Hampden at the start of the month. But it was clear in his post-match reaction that the red card had left him devastated for a brief spell (BT Sport).

He’ll be desperate to right some wrongs from that Hampden showpiece. A goal or an assist will do nicely, but even just a positive 90-minute performance will do him a power of good.

Jeremie Frimpong should get his big chance for revenge on Sunday (Ewan Bootman/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

You could debate whether Elhamed actually would’ve been involved in any case had he been fit. There’s a strong case to say that Frimpong is the new number one, and that Elhamed may have to play second-fiddle until an opening arises.

Yet you have to remember how good Elhamed was at Ibrox back in September. Rangers got nothing past him that day, and his footwork and composure was a key part in setting the tone back at the start of the season clash. He’ll get his chance in the future, but it clearly won’t be on the 29th.