ANGE POSTECOGLOU is hoping a fortnight’s rest will gear up Reo Hatate for the crucial run-in to the campaign.
Celtic eventually saw off stubborn 10-man Hibs 3-1 at Parkhead yesterday to restore their nine-point advantage at the top of the Premiership after their nearest challengers beat Motherwell, who had Callum Slattery red-carded, 4-2 at Fir Park earlier in the day.
The Hoops have nine league games to play and are on course for their second successive title plus they are scheduled to go head to head with Michael Beale’s Ibrox side in the Scottish Cup semi-final at the end of next month.
END GAME…Reo Hatate shows his disappointment as he is forced to go off yesterday.
Hatate has been hugely influential in the midfield beside skipper Callum McGregor, but was forced to go off against the Easter Road visitors in the 13th minute with David Turnbull coming on swiftly as his replacement.
Worryingly, it looked as though the Hoops had anticipated the Japanese ace facing a problem.
Asked about the extent of the injury, Postecoglou answered: “I haven’t spoken to the medical team, but I’m hoping it’s nothing too serious.
“He just felt a twinge, so having a couple of weeks without games hopefully helps in terms of his recovery.”
The champions now head into the two-week international break with their next league game scheduled for a fortnight today when they take on Malky Mackay’s Ross County in Dingwall.
The Hoops had to overcome a Leith team who had Elie Youan sent off after two yellow cards before going ahead via the penalty spot with Josh Campbell maintaining his composure as he wrong-footed Joe Hart with an expertly-taken award.
However, the Hoops responded after the interval with their first home league spot-kick of the season. With Aaron Mooy and Hatate out of the picture, Filipe Jota accepted the responsibility to hit a low drive under the body of the diving David Marshall to his left.
In the 81st minute, South Korean striker Oh Hyeon-gyu bulleted in a Turnbull right-wing corner-kick and Sead Haksabanovic made certain with a brilliant third deep in stoppage-time.
Postecoglou, speaking to the Scottish Sun on Sunday, added: “We have been on a pretty good run. We want to keep going.
“But, ultimately, we factored this break into our planning. We knew it was coming. The stretch between the World Cup and now we knew would be really important.
“We knew we would have a lot of good weeks of training in there without any games and we used that really well.
“Now it’s about using these two weeks to get ready for the run-in.
“Some guys will be able to freshen up, others will get a bit of work in, others will go away with their national teams, hopefully do well and come back unscathed.”