BRENDAN RODGERS could be without influential captain Callum McGregor for the clash against Hearts at Tynecastle as the countdown to the crown continues on Sunday.

The midfielder was withdrawn at the interval against Dundee in midweek and replaced by Daniel Kelly with the hosts already six goals ahead at Parkhead. The teenager marked his appearance with an eye-catching finish for the seventh strike in the 7-1 victory.

Over the next 24 hours, McGregor, who had a problem with his Achilles and calf against the Dens Parkers, will be assessed by his manager and medical staff before the match day squad for Edinburgh is assembled.

Although there is a concern over the 30-year-old inspirational Scotland international, there is optimism for Rodgers in the team’s engine room.

CHEERLEADER…Callum McGregor celebrates at the final whistle following the 3-1 win at Fir Park last weekend.

Tomoki Iwata has returned from injury and has partnered McGregor and Matt O’Riley in the starting line-ups at Fir Park on Sunday and Parkhead on Wednesday.

The Japanese enforcer, whose solitary goal for the champions came in the 4-1 success at Tynecastle in October, earned praise from Rodgers.

The Irishman said: “He just anchors that midfield for us and allows Cal to move on. He’s a very good player, but he’s missed a lot of this season, moments when it looked like he was going to get his run in the team.

“He was out injured, so that’s been a challenging time for him and then it was just about getting him up to speed and trying to get him in at the right time.

“I’m really pleased for him because he has given his all in training and he’s just waited for that opportunity. And this is a midfield which was very difficult for players to get into.

“Tommo has had to be patient, but I trust him when he does come in. He plays the game simple, he’s dynamic and winning the ball back, and he’s performed really well in these last few games.”

THAT’S MY BHOY…Brendan Rodgers congratulates Tomoki Iwata after the Japanese ace’s first Celtic goal in the 4-1 win over Hearts at Tynecastle in October.

Reflecting on the successive victories with a 10-2 aggregate score, Rodgers, speaking to Celtic TV, continued: “If we can perform to the level we can do on a consistent basis, then we’re a very good team.

“It was a high-level performance against Dundee. Right from the off, everything felt really good in the game and the supporters were brilliant, they really pushed the team and the team never got themselves comfortable in the game, despite the scoreline.

‘They kept pushing and were intense, fast, dynamic and with quality in our goals. We’re in good health and good spirits and ready for the weekend.”

The Hoops gaffer added: “Tynecastle is always a difficult place to go, but we played really well the last time and scored really good goals. We lost a goal, but over the course of the game we were excellent.

“It’s always a great place to go, as a Celtic manager or player. There’s always a good atmosphere and we want to continue with the level of performance.”


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