CELTIC are likely to be without captain Callum McGregor for a lengthy period following the facial injury inflicted during the 2-1 Scottish Cup win at Alloa on Saturday evening.
The Hoops midfielder was forced off the pitch just before the interval after taking the full force of a mid-air challenge by Adam King on the side of his face.
Clearly groggy, McGregor had to be helped towards the touchline and was taken to a local hospital for a swift check-up before the end of a bruising, punishing confrontation with the third-tier side.
PRIZE GUY…Kris Commons with the championship and League Cup trophies in 2015.
The 28-year-old influential Scotland international anchorman is certainly out of Wednesday’s trip to Tynecastle for the Premiership meeting with Hearts and, as he awaits results of a scan, there is every likelihood he will be sidelined for the home match against Dundee United on Saturday and the visit of Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s Ibrox outfit four days later.
Kyogo Furuhashi and David Turnbull are both crocked, Liel Abada and Yosuke Ideguchi are doubtful after limping off against Alloa following some rough treatment and Ange Postecoglou will be without the services of Daizen Maeda and Tom Rogic who are on international duty with Japan and Australia.
However, former Hoops playmaker Kris Commons believes his old team can meet the challenges that are ahead.
The ex-Scotland star said: “I hate excuses being made when players are absent.
“I think back to the night when we beat Barcelona in 2012. We would have been underdogs even if we’d had our strongest team out. We would probably have been underdogs if Barcelona had only fielded five players!
HUGS AND KISSES…Victor Wanyama is congratulated by Georgios Samaras after the opening goal against Barcelona in November 2012.
EURO STAR…Tony Watt races away in triumph after thumping in the winner on an unforgettable European evening at Parkhead.
“That night we were missing our captain, Scott Brown, our best centre-forward, Gary Hooper, and our Player of the Year, Emilio Izaguirre, and we still, somehow, managed to come out with one of the greatest results in Celtic’s modern history.
“So, yes, Celtic may be missing important figures from their line-up on February 2, but they will feel they still have the players capable of delivering a vital victory against Rangers.”
Reflecting on McGregor’s situation, Commons, speaking in the Daily Mail, added: “He won’t be able to lead the team out in front of 60,000 fans, but his influence will still be felt at training, in the dressing room, at team meetings, and in sharing his experience with the new signings who have not yet experienced an Old Firm game.
“It’s clearly something that McGregor will wish had not happened, but it will make him an even better captain.
“During my time at Celtic, Scott Brown was excellent at playing his part as captain while not on the field.
SILVER STAR…Callum McGregor with the newly-won League Cup last month.
“Celtic did not cope very well when McGregor was out of the team earlier in the season, but they are in a much better place now.
“They are unbeaten in their last 19 domestic matches and that will have given them a huge amount of confidence.
“Postecoglou has done good business in the January transfer window and he is putting a decent squad together.
“It has not been a work in progress. It’s not a Steven Gerrard situation where he was given three years at Ibrox to win one trophy.
“Postecoglou has had to sign eight to ten players and it’s astonishing that they are breathing down the necks of a stable Rangers side that has been together for three or four years.
“Now it is time for the players he has signed, but who have not played as much, to step up to the plate.”