FORMER Celtic goal hero Chris Sutton has urged Ange Postecoglou not to take a risk with Reo Hatate at Parkhead on Saturday – if the influential Japanese ace isn’t completely fit.
The midfielder limped off after only 13 minutes of the Hoops’ 3-1 win over Hibs and was missing from the squad that travelled to Dingwall on Sunday for the 2-0 victory over Ross County.
Sutton acknowledges Hatate is a pivotal figure for his old club, but he insists he would not take a chance on the action man against Michael Beale’s Ibrox side if he is not functioning at the highest level.
ROARING SUCCESS…Reo Hatate and Greg Taylor celebrate another Celtic goal in an impressive season.
The one-time England international striker said: “If he’s not fully fit, I wouldn’t risk him. Celtic can afford to lose three games and still win the league, so there would be no point in risking further injury and missing more games.
“There’s also the Scottish Cup semi-final to think about.”
Australia World Cup playmaker Aaron Mooy is in a similar situation to his midfield partner and he also missed out in the Highlands that restored the champions’ nine-point advantage with eight games to play, continuing at the weekend with the visit of the Govan club.
Sutton, speaking to the Daily Record Celtic Podcast, added: “I don’t know how fit they are, that’s the biggest issue. Mooy had a bit of a slow start, but he’s been a really important signing for Ange Postecoglou.
“The manager keeps his cards close to chest when it comes to injuries so you never really know.
POWERHOUSE…Cameron Carter-Vickers is a rock in Celtic’s defence, according to Chris Sutton.
“I think Hatate has been Celtic’s most important player this season. When he is in the side, Celtic seem a lot quicker moving through the midfield. McGregor is so important at starting the moves, but Hatate is really integral.
“At this moment in time, Hatate is my Player of the Year in Scotland. I know Kyogo has scored the goals and Cameron Carter-Vickers has been an absolute rock.
“But Hatate is the key man. He’s also the man Rangers fear most – I really believe that.
“It would be a relief to the Rangers team if he doesn’t make it.”
Postecoglou brought in Tomoki Iwata and Matt O’Riley for the game against Malky Mackay’s side and they are on stand-by for the fourth Glasgow derby of the campaign.