BRENDAN RODGERS has five days to work overtime in the transfer market to strengthen his Celtic squad.

And former Hoops goal hero Chris Sutton reckons the Parkhead gaffer might need to bring in FIVE new players in a frantic search for top talent.

The one-time England international forward also insists the recruits should be ready to walk straight into the top side and perform immediately.

Last season’s treble winners, who fell at the first Viaplay League Cup hurdle at Kilmarnock last weekend, have some crucial encounters coming up fast.

Rodgers is preparing to get his players back on track this afternoon against St Johnstone at Parkhead while the first derby of the campaign at Ibrox is due a week tomorrow.

The Champions League draw is also on Thursday with the group stages kicking off in the midweek of September 19/20, so the challenges are piling up at a furious rate for Scotland’s title kings.

Sutton fears for his old team as he says: “When you think back to the final whistle at Hampden a few months ago when the treble was wrapped up, Celtic looked in prime position to kick on and hammer home their dominance. It looked ominous for Michael Beale at Rangers and his rebuild.

“But now? Celtic are not just weaker – they are MILES weaker. Rodgers might need to sign five players this week and all of them will have to be first-team ready.

“That’s an extraordinary situation to be in at this stage, when the season is already up and running. I get the injury problems are seriously damaging the team. Losing Cameron Carter-Vickers and Reo Hatate would hamper any side.

“But that doesn’t hide the overall problem right now. Celtic just have not kicked on. Losing Jota was a blow, but he left in the first week in July. It’s now nearly September. You can’t do much about Aaron Mooy retiring, but he announced his decision a long time ago.

“Rodgers brought in Maik Nawrocki and then Gustaf Lagerbielke, but those two are both prospects.

“Carl Starfelt was an experienced campaigner. I still can’t get my head around the decision to sell Starfelt before the end of the window. Carter-Vickers was coming back after a long injury and could have been eased in.

“If everything was rosy on August 31 they could have then let him go. I’m not having the girlfriend excuse. He is a professional footballer who was under contract. He should only go on the club’s terms.”

Sutton, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “The Nawrocki signing probably changed the thinking and I know Celtic’s model.

“But you can’t be talking about improvement in the Champions League and then replacing internationals with rookies. The likes of Yang and Odin Holm could become top players down the line, but they are not there yet.

“Lagerbielke could go on to be a star, but he’s only played a couple of dozen games in the Swedish top flight. And now he’s the guy who will be anchoring the defence at Ibrox next week.

“When you look at the physical threat Rangers possess, it doesn’t exactly augur well. I have no doubt Celtic will do business this week. Probably a lot.

“Luis Palma looks on the way and you’d have to think he is the Jota replacement. That’s a lot on his shoulders, but there will need to be others. A centre-half is an absolute must and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a loan deal.

“But are these guys coming in going to be thrown straight in at the deep end at Ibrox? Good luck with that. I’ve seen big-name internationals on both sides go weak at the knees in this fixture.”

Former £6million recruit from Chelsea in 2000 Sutton added: “It’s just not clicking at Celtic right now. Even the established players are not performing to their usual levels.

“I know it’s only been three games, but outside Matt O’Riley and Kyogo, who has hit the heights so far?

“These new signings are coming into a team that’s not yet performing. The Champions League is just a matter of weeks ago and I fear for Celtic right now. In fact, I fear for Celtic and Rangers – if they can somehow make it past PSV this week.

“Right now I can’t see the pair of them picking up a point. I shudder to think what the likes of Man City would do to them.

“Celtic don’t have the luxury of time. They need new faces now and they need to make an immediate impact.

“And if Rodgers’s squad is still weaker than last term come the end of the window, then Celtic fans will have every right to ask the same question again – how the heck did we get here?”

* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report from Celtic v St Johnstone this afternoon – only in your champion CQN.

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