DAIZEN MAEDA has revealed he is playing through the pain barrier for Celtic as he prepares for Japan’s double-header against Uruguay and Colombia.
The energetic, lightning-swift wide Bhoy had to be replaced after only half an hour, just five minutes after clashing with Hearts keeper Zander Clark to claim the champions’ equaliser in the 3-1 win at Parkhead a fortnight ago.
Maeda bravely attempted to play on, but the knee injury forced him off with Ange Postecoglou sending on Filipe Jota to take his place.
The 25-year-old attacker sat out the Scottish Cup quarter-final 3-0 victory over the same opponents at Tynecastle three days later, but was involved for an hour in the 3-1 triumph over Hibs in the east end of Glasgow at the weekend.
THE EQUALISER…Daizen Maeda hits the ground after clashing with Hearts keeper Zander Clark to make it 1-1 at Parkhead a fortnight ago. Liel Abada is about to congratulate his team-mate.
THE AGONY…Daizen Maeda’s celebrattions are curtailed as he feels the pain.
Liel Abada took his place on this occasion as Postecoglou took the opportunity to offer some rest to the Japanese ace and give some game time to the Israeli winger.
Maeda is now hoping to be involved in the international friendlies for the Blue Samurai with the first due against Uruguay on Friday and the Colombians four days later.
The World Cup star has admitted he has had a change of training routine to overcome any problems and, speaking to local sports media outlet Hochi, said: “I have adjusted for about an hour by cycling and jogging before training.
“I’m going to make adjustments so that I can make it in time for games.”
Maeda also acknowledged he had been given an extra onus when he performs for club and country and added: “I have become even stronger now that I have to have a sense of responsibility.
“I have gained confidence.”
THE JOY…Daizen Maeda celebrates his winning goal against Motherwell at Fir Park in November.
Maeda is on the brink of playing a crucial role in the Hoops’ relentless surge for the domestic silverware clean sweep as the games tick down.
He was involved in the 2-1 Viaplay League Cup success last month and hopes to be ready to hit the ground running when the champions, with a nine-point advantage with nine matches to go, restart the league campaign against Ross County in Dingwall a week on Sunday.
Maeda also plans to get revenge for last season’s Scottish Cup semi-final extra-time loss to the Ibrox opposition when the teams meet again in the last-four of the competition at Hampden at the end of next month.