CELTIC legend Chris Sutton insists Neil Lennon faces a dilemma before the Betfred League Cup Final in three weeks’ time.
The former Hoops striker reckons his old team-mate will find it difficult to replace injured first-choice right-back Hatem Abd Elhamed against Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox side in the silverware showdown at Hampden on December 8.
Sutton rates it a real setback for the Hoops and could hand the advantage to their Glasgow rivals.
The 28-year-old Israeli defender has clearly impressed the Englishman since he took over the No.2 role in the summer.
Sutton, speaking to the Daily Record, said: “Neil Lennon is already facing his first selection dilemma with Hatem Abd Elhamed ruled out.
ON THE BALL…Jeremie Frimpong takes on Ross Stewart of Ross County during his Premiership debut.
“There is no getting away from the fact that the loss of the Israeli international is a huge blow with the full back possibly even struggling to return for the derby in the league at the end of next month.
“Elhamed was a bit of an unknown quantity when he arrived at Parkhead from Hapoel Be’er Sheva and people who hadn’t heard of him looked at his track record and asked: ‘What’s wrong with him, he must be deficient in some area?’
“Now, after the news he’s sidelined for up to six weeks with the thigh injury suffered in the Europa League win over Lazio in Rome, fans are concerned about his absence.
“It was always going to be a tough task to replace Mikael Lustig and he’s a signing, for a fee of around just £1.6 million, who has made a seamless transition and been so impressive, really.
“Elhamed has certainly proved his versatility as he can play at right-back or centre-half and it looks a good piece of business.
“In terms of match-ups in the Betfred Cup Final, I’d say defensively it’s a big loss for Celtic when you look at Rangers in the wide area and it looks like it might be Ryan Kent on that side.
“So, you’d have to say it’s an advantage for Rangers that Celtic are missing their first choice and best defensive full-back for such a huge game.”
ON THE RUN…Moritz Bauer charges into attack.
Sutton added: “Neil Lennon has the choice of two replacements in Jeremie Frimpong and Moritz Bauer.
“You’d think professional football was quite an easy game the way youngster Frimpong has started his career in a Celtic jersey with really good attacking intent, but we haven’t seen him seriously tested defensively.
“Frimpong is a fantastic athlete and it could be him or it could be Bauer who seems to be an adequate back-up – a good athlete with a point to prove while on loan from Stoke City.
“Neil Lennon talks of having three good right-backs, but there’s no getting away from the fact the number one right-back – the guy who had a superb game at Ibrox – is Elhamed and is a huge loss.”
Elhamed was forced to limp off near the end of the historic 2-1 win in Rome as Celtic claimed their first victory on Italian soil and booked their place in the Europa League knock-out stages next year.
Frimpong, who arrived from Manchester City on transfer deadline day on September 2, has made a massive impression on the Hoops fans after five first team games that have seen the team win them all with 22 goals scored and only two conceded.
Bauer came on at Ibrox earlier in the season when Elhamed moved to central defence after Nir Bitton had been forced to limp off midway through the second-half of the 2-0 victory.