Celtic rocked by THIRD Covid-19 case ahead of Rangers clash as club voices frustration at 'challenging' international period
Celtic have been dealt a further blow ahead of this weekend's Old Firm clash with Rangers after Hatem Abd Elhamed tested positive for coronavirus.
The former Hapoel Be’er Sheva defender felt unwell after playing in his country’s 2-1 defeat by the Czech Republic on Sunday, was placed in “provisional self-isolation”, and was tested on Monday morning.
The Israel internationalist is the third Hoops player to return a positive Covid-19 result after striker Odsonne Edouard and his compatriot Nir Bitton. The trio will all miss Saturday’s showdown along with midfielder Ryan Christie, who is self-isolating after being identified as a close contact of Scotland team-mate Stuart Armstrong, who also tested positive last week.
Elhamed is now required to self-isolate for 13 days as per his homeland’s regulations.
In a statement Celtic said they were “disappointed and frustrated that another player on international duty has tested positive - during an international period which is continuing to present huge challenges for the club”.
While clubs are obliged to release players for international duty as per FIFA regulations, the Parkhead side have hinted that they could pull players from national team involvement in the future.
The statement continued: “Going forward we are sure wider discussions will take place around this hugely important issue.
"We will monitor these discussions closely.”
This is a stronger line than their response to Bitton’s diagnosis, when a club spokespoerson said: “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.”
In the meantime, Celtic will remain in constant contact with the 29-year-old and will provide him with “all required support”.
The statement added: “Everyone at the Club sends Hatem our best wishes and, of course, we hope he makes a full recovery as soon as possible.”
The Bhoys are now without Bitton, Christie, Edouard, Elhamed, James Forrest, and Mikey Johnston for the first meeting of the season between the two Glasgow rivals.
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