CELTIC are heading towards the final tape in their quest for a league and Cup double with monumental injury problems concerning two key players.

Captain Callum McGregor was missing for his second consecutive game after being withdrawn at half-time in the 7-1 win over Dundee at Parkhead at the tailend of last month.

And influential Cameron Carter-Vickers, the defence’s colossus, had to sit out the disjointed 4-2 win over Livingston in the east end Glasgow yesterday after pulling up in training the previous day.

Neither McGregor nor the USA World Cup Finals centre-back is likely to play in the Premiership match against St Johnstone on Saturday with the next league fixture after the visit of Craig Levein’s Perth outfit scheduled for the trip to West Lothian to face Livingston on their dreaded plastic pitch on March 31.

HAPPY DAIZ…Celtic’s hat-trick hero Daizen Maeda is congratulated by Nicolas Kuhn after netting the opener.

Concerned boss Brendan Rodgers is hoping the international pause will buy the inspirational duo time to get back to peak condition with nine league games and the possibility of two Scottish Cup-ties on the agenda.

Acknowledging the uncertainty about the availability of McGregor and Carter-Vickers, the Hoops boss conceded: “It always is if you have your top players and your captain not available.

“Of course, there will be other players who can come in, but the level that he [Callum] brings the game to is beyond what a lot of our players can do. Fingers crossed again, we can get to the bottom of that and he’ll be available after the international break.”

Rugged Carter-Vickers, whose presence was sorely missed during the toiling display against troublesome Livi, faces another scan and is likely to be missing from the USA international squad for their game against Jamaica a week on Thursday.

Rodgers, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “We were just going through something very light on Saturday and he felt something in the back of his leg.

CONCERNED…Brendan Rodgers opens up on worries over Callum McGregor and Cameron Carter-Vickers.

“He was okay to continue training, but we just didn’t want to take any risk whatsoever with him. As much as he wants to play every game and be there, we had this earlier in the season when he said he was okay, but we ended up losing him for a number of matches.

“Hopefully, it’s nothing too serious. We just have to wait and see. If players are fit and available then we can’t stop him going, that’s internationals.

“He’ll obviously be called up for the USA, I’m sure, but we’ll just have to wait and see what the scan result says.”

Reflecting on the stuttering, nervy showing against David Martindale’s side that was eventually settled with Daizen Maeda’s hat-trick and a typical Kyogo Furuhashi whiplash effort, Rodgers added: “This is a club where the standards are different.

“There are lots of teams who will accept grinding out results and finding a way to win.

“That doesn’t apply to Celtic – because it’s about the standard and level of performance. That is always the demand here. I understand when you have players missing you might not always find that level.

HAPPY JAPANESE BHOY…Kyogo Furuhashi celebrates hitting Celtic’s fourth goal against Livingston.

“But you have to win in the meantime. The guys managed to do that. We will go into there remaining games in the league and Scottish Cup with the aim of performing well – because I believe when we perform to our highest level we have a great chance of winning games.

“But if you can’t quite get to that level, for whatever reason, you still have to win.

“The players deserve credit for that. Some of them haven’t played a lot. Matt O’Riley wasn’t well all week, Stephen Welsh came in at the last minute, Nicolas Kuhn coming in after not featuring.

“There was a little bit of disruption there, but the guys got the job done in the end. It wasn’t the performances we wanted, but we got into the semi-finals, which was great.”


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