JOSIP JURANOVIC is due back at Celtic within the next 24 hours, but Ange Postecoglou has no intention of rushing the World Cup hero back into action.
The 27-year-old defender was outstanding for Croatia in the soccer showpiece in Qatar – especially in his duel with Brazil’s Vinicius Junior – but missed the third-place play-off win over Morocco with a hamstring injury.
Postecoglou still has a problem over the No.2 position with Reo Hatate moved from his usual midfield berth to face St Johnstone at the weekend with Anthony Ralston sidelined after limping off in the 2-1 midweek victory over Livingston.
JURANOVIC v MESSI…the Celtic defender in a tussle for possession with the Argentinian superstar in the World Cup semi-final.
The versatile Japanese performer fitted in seemlessly to the wide-right defensive slot and even managed to fire in a double in the 4-1 triumph over the Perth outfit.
Alistair Johnston, the recent £3.5million recruit from MLS outfit CF Montreal after his eye-catching performances for Canada in the Middle East, is not eligible until his move is rubberstamped when the transfer window opens on January 1 2023.
The Hoops are due to play Hibs at Easter Road on Wednesday, but Juranovic is not expected to figure in the manager’s matchday squad.
Postecoglou said: “We’ll get him back in. He’s had a slight injury, so we’ll see how he is.
“It’s unlikely he’ll be available for Hibs, but we’ll see. Until we set eyes on him, we’ll see what condition he’s in.
“We won’t throw him back in unless he’s absolutely ready to go.” The Greek-Australian gaffer, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “We’ll see with Tony. He improved on Friday and Saturday, so we’ll give him every chance.
THREE CHEERS…Reo Hatate is congratulated by Matt O’Riley and Aaron Mooy after his first goal in the 4-1 win over St Johnstone at Parkhead.
“We know what Tony’s like, he’ll give himself every chance.”
Reflecting on Hatate’s display in the victory over Callum Davidson’s Perth outfit, Postecoglou added: “He was great and handled it really well. I spoke to him about it on Friday and he was all-in.
“I remember watching him play left-back earlier in his career in Japan. But he’s not a full-back, he’s a midfielder.
“I thought, with the way the game was going to go, he would give us a hell of a lot going forward with his passing and creativity.
“Defensively, it was just a matter of him being disciplined. He was next to Cameron Carter-Vickers and he’s a good guy to have alongside you in a new role.
“Whatever sort of defensive frailties we have, he’s definitely good enough to do the job for us. Credit to him, he did really well.”