Celtic rocked by another Covid-19 case and could be without FIVE key players for Old Firm clash with Rangers
Celtic midfielder Nir Bitton has returned a positive coronavirus test while on international duty with Israel.
The 28-year-old will now have to self-isolate for ten days, ruling him out of next weekend’s Old Firm showdown with Rangers at Celtic Park.
News of Bitton’s positive Covid-19 test comes just three days after Hoops striker Odsonne Edouard also returned a positive test while on international duty with France Under-21s and 48 hours after Ryan Christie was also ruled out of the Scottish Premiership clash after the midfielder was identified as a close contact of Stuart Armstrong, who also tested positive for the virus during the international break.
It is understood that Bitton was informed of the positive result on Friday.
A Celtic statement read: “We send our sincere best wishes to Nir and any other players or staff affected within the Israel squad.
"We are in constant dialogue with Nir and look forward to him returning safely to the Celtic squad as soon as possible.”
Other Scottish-based players involved
Hoops defender Hatem Abd Elhamed and Hibs goalkeeper Ofir Marciano also featured for Israel during the Euro 2020 play-off semi-final clash with Scotland but at the time of writing have not been instructed to self-isolate as close contacts of Bitton. The trio and their families are naturally close off the pitch and all three players turned out for Ashdod between 2011 and 2013.
The statement continued: “Clearly, recent events during this international period are very concerning and frustrating.
"We have worked tirelessly to ensure a safe and secure working environment and since testing has begun our players and medical staff have done a brilliant job in very difficult circumstances.
“Although we will never be complacent, throughout our own club testing programme, our squad has returned around 2,000 individual negative tests since the outbreak of the pandemic, with not one positive test.
“The current situation has presented huge challenges for all within football and wider society which we do not underestimate in any way.”
‘A very difficult position’
Clubs are obliged to release players for international duty under FIFA regulations but the Parkhead side is clearly unhappy with the chain of events.
The statement continued: “While we apportion no blame whatsoever to anyone, this is now a very difficult position for us and, clearly, for all other clubs.
"Like all other clubs, we must do all we can to protect our squad and limit the very clear and obvious risks to players.
“We will be maintaining close contact with international associations in order to ensure everything possible is being done with regards to the care and protection of our players.
"The priority must be the safety of our players at all times.”
Depleted ranks for Old Firm clash
Celtic could potentially be without Bitton, Christie, and Edouard as well as James Forrest and Mikey Johnston for next weekend’s showdown with their greatest rivals.
After Christie was advised to self-isolate, Celtic said they were “aiming to open dialogue with the Scottish Government and other authorities to fully understand the self-isolation procedures for those players who continue to deliver negative test results”.
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