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WHY JOZO MAY BE A NO-GO

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NEIL LENNON insists Jozo Simunovic will not be made a scapegoat for Celtic’s dismal Europa League exit last week.

The Croatian central defender gifted FC Copenhagen the crucial opening goal on their way to a shock 3-1 win at Parkhead to send the Hoops into oblivion.

Simunovic did not make he matchday squad for the 1-0 Scottish Cup quarter-final victory over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park on Sunday – and he is unlikely to feature in the Premiership tussle against Livingston in West Lothian tomorrow night.

Kristoffer Ajer is struggling to overcome a thigh injury sustained against the Perth outfit, but the Hoops boss will not even have Simunovic on stand-by for an encounter the champions cannot afford to slip up as they did earlier in the season when they collapsed to a wretched 2-0 loss.

Livi’s artificial pitch will rule out the centre-back whose future in Glasgow could be in doubt with his contract due to expire in June although the club have the option of triggering a one-year extension.

Lennon, speaking to The Scotsman, said: “Kris has felt his thigh a little bit, so we’ll wait and see how he is on Wednesday, but the rest of the team came through the game okay.

“The surface would probably work against Jozo. We’ll just have to wait and see how Kris is and take it from there.Hopefully, he’ll be all right. He’s going to have a scan, but he’s been playing with it for a couple of weeks, so we’re hoping he makes it.

“Will Jozo bounce back? Absolutely. We got it back to 1-1 against Copenhagen, so his mistake didn’t cost us the game. It was the game management in the two minutes after we scored that cost us and we were all culpable for that.

“I didn’t need to have a chat with him. We spoke this morning, about life in general and he’s in a good place. His knee is not responding quite as we’d like, so he’s a major doubt.”

After the setback in October against Gary Holt’s side – where Ryan Christie was given a straight red card in the first-half by referee Willie Collum for a reckless challenge – Lennon knows his side face another rugged challenge.

He added: “We haven’t even scored there in our last two visits, so we’re going to have to rectify that somehow. It will be tough.

“We’re going to have to roll up sleeves up because it’s going to be a battle. Their home form is terrific and it’s a really difficult venue.

“They’re a team I admire. There are no superstars in it, but they work really hard and they’ve got great energy. Physically, they are a really tough team.

“Livi have had a few decent results away from home, as well. You only have to look at their league position to see that they’ve held their own at home and away.

“They beat us 2-0 and, okay, we were down to 10 men, but they made life so difficult for us and it’s going to be exactly the same on Wednesday night.”

 
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