Celtic manager Neil Lennon has stated that he was forced to take off Jozo Simunovic last night due to his knee problem.
The towering centre-back hadn’t done a lot wrong against St Johnstone before being hooked at half-time for Moritz Bauer. He looked tidy on the ball and, without being spectacular, he didn’t put a foot wrong.
It followed on from two 90-minute showings against both Kilmarnock and Ross County. However, once again it looks as though his knee issues are flaring up again.
And speaking to BT Sport during their coverage of St Johnstone vs Celtic (BT Sport 1, 29/01, 21:45), Lennon confirmed he had no choice but to take him off.
“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.
“But he’s been outstanding, I’m so happy for him as well.”
Jozo still not fully over his long-term knee complaint
Simunovic has missed 100 games for Celtic during his time at the club. The vast majority of those absences came due to knee injuries. (Transfermarkt).
It’s disappointing to see that he still has a problem there. After playing two full matches and managing 45 minutes against St Johnstone last night, it was vital he picked up some momentum.
Fortunately, it seems as though Lennon currently has things under control. He’s having to manage Simunovic on a game-by-game basis, and it seems as though it was a case of taking him off so that he didn’t do any long-term damage to it.
But it’s been nearly two weeks since he returned to action. You would’ve hoped that he would be up to speed by now and able to play 90 minutes without it having an effect on him.
Celtic can’t continue to rely on players who spend more time on the treatment table than on the pitch. That’s why we need another centre-back in. It would put less pressure on Simunovic to get over his long-term knee issues.
Regardless, focus now switches to Sunday’s trip to Hamilton. It would be surprising to see Simunovic make himself available for this one, despite the fact he played against Kilmarnock on a similar surfact. With his knee flaring up again, it likely isn’t worth the risk.