CELTIC star Nir Bitton will miss Israel’s Euro 2016 must-win qualifier in Belgium tomorrow night.
The stylish midfielder scored a sensational long-range equalising goal against Cyprus in his nation’s shock 2-1 defeat at the weekend. And, completing a ,miserable day, he was booked and will be banned for the tie against the Belgians.
Ronny Deila won’t be complaining that his 23-year-old playmaker has been spared another tough 90 minutes. Israel lost 1-0 at home to Belgium in March and their hopes are now balanced on a tightrope.
Bitton’s spectacular effort led to Israel coach Eli Guttman highly praising the player who has become a superstar in his homeland.
He said: “If all of the players were like Nir Bitton we’d be in good shape.”
And he then added: “Nir could be come a real great in football. He has improved so much and is a fantastic talent.”
Hoops fans have enjoyed some thrilling goals from Bitton over the past couple of months. His goal in the 5-0 demolition of Dundee in May was rated one of the best of last season.
And he provided something similar in this campaign to give Deila’s men a 2-1 lead over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park in August. Unfortunately, a late penalty-kick leveller deprived the champions two points.
Bitton cost Celtic just £700,000 when he signed from FC Ashdod and his recent form has seen his value soar while attracting envious glances from across the border. Thankfully, the player has stressed on several occasions that he is happy at Parkhead and is in no rush to leave. He is due to have talks on a contract extension in the near future.
Fellow-Hoops midfield dynamo Stefan Johansen believes Norway can beat Italy in Rome tomorrow night and secure their place in the finals of the European Championships in France next summer.
Norway beat Malta at home on Tuesday and even a draw against the Italians might be good enough if Croatia, two points behind them in third place, slip up away to Malta.
Johansen said: “We’re going to Italy to win and get the three points.That is what we are banking on, we must do what we are good at, and then we’ll see how it goes.
“This is a very tight group, but we have to be optimistic. It’s in our favour that Italy have qualified, but at the same time they can play without pressure.
“With the quality that they have it might make them even better.”
Meanwhile, a decision will be made this week on Carlton Cole. CQN revealed on Saturday new Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce could be interested in the free agent after working with the striker at West Ham for four years.
Neil Lennon’s Bolton Wanderers have also been credited with an interest, but any move that kept him in the Premier League is likely to suit the former England international frontman who celebrates his 32nd birthday today.
The ex-Chelsea star has trained at Lennoxtown over the past two weeks and informal talks have taken place, but no decision has been reached.
Deila could even offer a deal that keeps Cole at Parkhead for the remainder of the season. But Allardyce, who has just agreed a two-year deal with the Wearside outfit, and Lennon, with his side struggling at the foot of the Championship, are continuing to monitor the situation.