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TOURE STANDS BY FOR DEBUT

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KOLO TOURE is standing by to make his Celtic debut against Astana in the Champions League qualifier at Parkhead tomorrow night.

Boss Brendan Rodgers insists a starting place for the 35-year-old Ivory Coast international centre-half, who signed 11 days ago as a free agent, would not be a gamble.

Toure missed last week’s 1-1 first leg draw in Kazakhstan and also sat out the 3-1 International Champions Cup defeat to Barcelona in Dublin at the weekend as he worked on his fitness.

Rodgers is short on defenders with Erik Sviatchenko, Dedryck Boyata and Jozo Simunovic all sidelined with injuries.

That means the Hoops gaffer, who gave a European debut to 20-year-old Eoghan O’Connell alongside Efe Ambrose in Astana, is still limited in central defensive options.

Rpdgers said: “Kolo will be in the squad. He has trained well since he has come in.

“We left him behind at the weekend to continue with that and I am confident he can play a part in the game tomorrow.

“If I feel he can start in the game and he is ready, I will have no problem playing him.

“I wouldn’t think it would be gamble, we are just assessing fitness at the moment.

“He is super-experienced. Kolo has had a great impact already in the short period of time he has had here, but you also have to try to apply a little bit of common sense to it.

“He has only been in the building a short period of time and it is a huge game for us. But I have no doubt that his experience somewhere in the game can be required, if I felt that he wasn’t ready to start.”

Rodgers also revealed Nir Bitton has had a scan on the ankle injury he sustained against Barca which will almost certainly rule him out while fellow-midfielder Stefan Johansen is back in the squad. The Norwegian missed the last two games after his wife had a baby.

On Bitton’s injury, the Irishman added: “He will struggle to make the game. He had quite a bad knock on his medial ligament, so I think he will struggle for fitness tomorrow.”

 
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