According to the Scottish Sun, Jozo Simunovic is set to be rested for Celtic’s trip to Hamilton on Sunday, opening up a real problem for Neil Lennon.
Simunovic came off at half-time during Wednesday night’s 3-0 win against St Johnstone. Lennon revealed post-match that this was down to his long-term knee problem (BT Sport 1, 29/01, 21:45)
“I made an enforced change with Jozo (Simunovic) because he’s got the knee problem, he’s been an absolute rock for the last four games but he’s just got a little problem with his knee so he gets a rest now.”
The centre-back has had a long history of not being available to play on plastic, and it looks as though that’s going to extend to this Sunday too. Simunovic, of course, did feature against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park over a week ago on a similar surface.
However, for Lennon, it opens up a big issue. Celtic now have no available centre-backs to come in and play in Simunovic’s place.
Fear over a lack of cover has been realised
As things stand, Celtic have both Christopher Jullien and Kristoffer Ajer in their starting XI. Outside of that, we have Simunovic and Nir Bitton there as cover. Unfortunately, both men are still injured, meaning that there are no senior options available.
When Simunovic came off against Saints, Moritz Bauer had to come on in his place. Thankfully, Celtic were playing with a back three, so it gave Bauer the freedom to peel off to the right as opposed to staying at centre-back.
However, if Lennon had the option of another centre-back, you imagine he would jump at it. That’s what makes his comments heading into the Saints game earlier this week all the more bemusing. He stated that Celtic have enough at centre-back now, but Simunovic’s injury shows that we clearly don’t (Celtic FC Youtube).
Perhaps it’s not the case that we don’t have enough options. The problem is all of those reserve options are injury-prone. Thankfully it’s transfer deadline day, however, and there’s still time to get one in just in case.
Simunovic may not be out for the long-term, but he’s clearly carrying a problem. Given his previous injury concerns, it’s not something we should be taking a risk on.
Latest reports on Celtic’s transfer activity suggest that we’re in talks with Spurs over the possible transfer of Victor Wanyama (Evening Standard). Wanyama does have the capability to drop into centre-back, but ideally we would also be in for a natural one.
Simunovic, of course, will hopefully overcome his injury and take full advantage of his rest. But we’re playing a risky game by pinning our hopes on him to constantly be available as cover.