Celtic's Nir Bitton "in big trouble" with Neil Lennon if not fit to face Rangers after playing for Israel against Scotland

Nir Bitton played 120 minutes of Israel’s penalty shoot-out defeat to Scotland yesterday, and admitted he could be in “big trouble” if he reports back to Celtic injured again.

Friday, 9th October 2020, 1:32 pm
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - OCTOBER 08: Israel's Nir Bitton shows his frustration during a Euro 2020 Play off match between Scotland and Israel at Hampden Park, on October 08 2020, in Glasgow, Scotland (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - OCTOBER 08: Israel's Nir Bitton shows his frustration during a Euro 2020 Play off match between Scotland and Israel at Hampden Park, on October 08 2020, in Glasgow, Scotland (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

The 28-year-old defender twisted his ankle in Celtic's Europa League win over Sarajevo last week and missed the Premiership victory at St Johnstone on Sunday after which the Celtic boss Lennon claimed it would be "impossible" for the centre-back to be fit in time for the Euro 2020 play-off semi-final.

But Bitton played and says his burning desire to represent his country pushed him on and he completed the full two hours, and even scored in the penalty shoot-out – but he was feeling the injury again afterwards.

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He said: "Celtic is the club who pay my salary but as a person, as a professional athlete, I couldn't give up on this game. These are the games you dream of playing when you are six years old.

Scotland's Lyndon Dykes (left) competes with Israel's Nir Bitton during a Euro 2020 Play off match between Scotland and Israel at Hampden Park, on October 08 2020, in Glasgow, Scotland (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

"Even the day after the injury I told the medical staff at Celtic that I wanted to give myself a chance. I twisted my ankle very badly away in Bosnia and I didn't believe I could make it. On the way back home on Friday I was on crutches, I was in a wheelchair and I couldn't even walk on the foot.

"But I wasn't going to rule myself out of the game until I knew that I couldn't play.

"I never give up, I always try to push myself to the limit but to be honest the medical staff here did an unbelievable job, they treated me like their child with treatment three times a day.

"I played this game only because of them and I understand the frustration of Celtic. I was glad I made it but it is a bit frustrating now."

Asked about speaking to Lennon, Bitton jokingly replied: "I blocked his number."

He added: "I didn't speak to him. It was between the national team and Celtic.

"But for my side, I always told Celtic that I was going to give it a chance and obviously if I didn't feel good I wouldn't play. But on Tuesday I felt OK at training, on Wednesday I felt better and on Thursday morning I told the gaffer that I wanted to play.

"With all the adrenaline around the game and around the occasion you don't feel anything - I feel it now though."

Bitton is not sure if he will be asked to play in Israel's Nations League games against Czech Republic and Slovakia before returning to Glasgow for the first Old Firm game of the year at Celtic Park on October 17.

Asked if he would be fit for the Rangers game, Bitton smiled and said: "I am in big trouble if I'm not.

"Obviously Rangers is a big game but I'm not thinking about Rangers right now.

"I gave everything to take part in this game, this is a game that really was my target. I didn't really think about the Czech Republic or Slovakia, I only thought about Scotland. So I don't know what is going to happen, we will see."