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Betfred Cup: How could Celtic line up to face Hearts amid fresh injury concerns?

Brendan Rodgers' preparations for Sunday's Betfred Cup semi-final against Hearts at BT Murrayfield were dealt a blow after Cristian Gamboa and Jozo Simunovic sustained injuries during the 2-0 Europa League loss to RB Leipzig.

According to Rodgers, the Costa Rican international and the former Croatia Under-21 cap will go for scans but the Northern Irishman also suggested that there was doubt over Tom Rogic's fitness.

Rodgers said he was "hopeful" the Australian international would play, but the former Central Coast Mariners man has been struggling with a knee injury.

First choice centre half Dedryck Boyata is suspended for the match and although he didn't feature against the Bundesliga side, Filip Benkovic is expected to start against the Jambos.

With the Celtic manager already without a handful of key players, parts of Rodgers' squad will be down to the bare bones for the Capital showpiece this weekend.

Captain Scott Brown and striker Leigh Griffiths will definitely miss out, along with long-term absentee Nir Bitton and Kristoffer Ajer, who is still recovering from a hamstring injury.

Mikey Johnston has also been struggling with injury in recent weeks, forcing him to miss games for Scotland Under-21s, while neither Kundai Benyu or Scott Allan are likely to be involved.

A lot depends on how Celtic's walking wounded recover over the course of Friday and Saturday, but Rodgers may be forced to cast his net a little wider to ensure he has an 18-man squad available.



Jack Hendry is likely to be handed a start, with Marvin Compper seemingly out of the picture despite declaring himself fit and ready to play. If Rodgers overlooks Compper and fellow defender Anthony Ralston - and there's a good chance he will - Emilio Izaguirre could be his only defensive back-up.

Midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu is also reportedly sidelined through injury, although the return of James Forrest - forced to miss the trip to Germany after his red card against Red Bull Salzburg - will alleviate some of Rodgers' personnel worries going into Sunday's match.

Assuming Rodgers opts for a 4-2-3-1 formation, Craig Gordon will almost certainly continue in goals, with an expected back four of Mikael Lustig at right back, Hendry and Benkovic in the middle and Kieran Tierney at left back.

Eboue Kouassi is expected to continue in the engine room alongside Olivier Ntcham, while Callum McGregor and Ryan Christie or Scott Sinclair - a second half sub against RB - could complete the attacking trio.

Odsonne Edouard will lead the line in the lone striker role.

In terms of substitutes, Rodgers has back-up goalkeeper Scott Bain, Izaguirre, wingers Jonny Hayes and Lewis Morgan, and one of Christie or Sinclair depending on who gets the starting berth.

But he may need to dip into Celtic's reserve squad in order to fill his bench. Daniel Arzani is yet to have any involvement with the Hoops first team squad but may be an option, while Ewan Henderson could also be brought in to ensure a full quota of substitutes.
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Publication:The Scotsman Online
Date:Oct 26, 2018
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