BRENDAN RODGERS will target a new striker as a priority signing in the January transfer window.
The Celtic boss is braced for the loss of Kyogo Furuhashi and Oh Hyeon-gyu who will be involved in the Asian Cup after the turn of the year and is prepared to raid the market, a move CQN emphasised as a prime concern last week.
The champions stand to be relieved of the services of FIVE players when the international tournament kicks off in Qatar on January 12 with the Final due on February 10.
THE THINKER…Brendan Rodgers has much to ponder before the January transfer window.
Kyogo, Reo Hatate and Daizen Maeda will almost certainly be called up by Japan while Oh and winger Yang Hyun-jun are likely to be included by South Korea.
The SPFL’s winter break begins on January 3 and concludes 16 days later which means the Hoops could be missing pivotal players for up to five games, depending on the progress of the two nations.
Celtic are scheduled to play Premiership matches against Hibs and Aberdeen away – and Kilmarnock and Ross County at home – as well as a Scottish Cup-tie to be fitted into that frantic period.
Rodgers, though, admitted the club are prepared for exodus of Kyogo and Co and said: “We’ve given the Asian Cup a lot of thought. The likelihood is – if they’re fit – a lot of them will be there. That’s part of our planning.
“It doesn’t change our plans for January as it’s not a surprise. We knew it was there. We spoke about it in the summer leading into this window. We have that in hand and we know what our ideas are for that.
QATAR-BOUND…Kyogo Furuhashi will almost certainly be called up by Japan.
“It’s about strategy. You can either buy one or you can look at the loan market. It’s always about availability and what you can afford as well.”
Rodgers, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “It’s always an opportunity for someone else. Everyone is replaceable. You want to have all your squad here, but we’ve known all along they won’t be, so we’re prepared.
“Our first look will always be inside. Is there anyone in the academy we feel can step in? You never know, you might have a £15million or £20million player in there.
“We’ll assess that. If it’s not inside then, of course, we’ll have to look outside. Players can also switch positions. The last time I was here, I played Patrick Roberts or James Forrest as a striker for a number of games.
“We’ve got adaptability within the squad, but we know what we’ll need.”
There is the option of requesting league fixtures to be called off with so many players unavailable, but it’s not a route Celtic will be pursuing and Rodgers added: “No, we’ll just play the games.
COUNTRY CALLING…Oh Hyeon-gyu is likely to get the nod by South Korea for the Asian Cup.
“If you have a number of Asian players in your squad, you know this might happen, so it’s just about dealing with it.
“It’s something you have to plan forward for and it was one of the first things we spoke about when I came here. It’s not all about the present, it’s about looking forward to each window.”
In the meantime, the focus will be on winning three Premiership points in today’s 2.30pm kick-off against Aberdeen at Parkhead.
At the present, the league leaders have an eight-point advantage over Philippe Clement’s Ibrox side who take on Livingston in West Lothian with a noon start.
* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report from Celtic v Aberdeen this afternoon – only in your champion CQN.