It remains to be seen whether or not Kyogo Furuhashi will be called up by Japanese coach Moriyasu Hajikazu for the matches against China and Saudi Arabia, matches which will be crucial in shaping the Japanese team’s World Cup ambitions.
There is uncertainty over the player’s participation, with his national coach expressing doubts over his fitness following the hamstring injury in December. There is also some concern about the current Covid protocols.
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Still, while there has been plenty of talk surrounding the potential involvement of the Celtic talisman and that of Tom Rogic who is also set to represent Australia, the timing of the matches prevents them from playing Rangers in the match. of a revamped derby, the reality is Celtic can’t afford to hang on too much to anything a fortnight away.
Ange Postecoglou’s side take on Hibs tonight as they host a full house at the stadium. There will be plenty of excitement with fans eagerly awaiting a return to action after the premature winter break.
Celtic’s current position in the league would highlight the need to get going immediately after games resume. There can be no slack in things given the lack of a safety net that exists. This time, a year ago, the catalyst saw the season go quite spectacularly after returning from an ill-timed trip to Dubai resulted in a draw at home to Hibs which happened on the backs of 13 first-team players self-isolating.
This time, Celtic resume in a much stronger position than where they left off. The arrivals of Daizen Maeda, Reo Hatate and Yosuke Ideguchi as well as Johnny Kenny ensure there is room for change and polish now with Maeda and Hatate possibly in line to start tonight given Kyogo and David Turnbull’s injuries.
Certainly, however, even if Celtic have their sights set on Rangers’ next game, there is clearly a need to ensure they go there with momentum at their backs. One of the great myths in Scottish football is that the form book goes out the window for games between Celtic and Rangers. The reality is that invariably it’s the team putting together with confidence, conviction and a head of steam that almost always gets the applause.
Celtic will know that a win against Rangers will blow the title race away, but until they do, it would be wise to focus on the here and now. Shaun Maloney has proven to be a shrewd and articulate trainer. He has made a winning start to life at Hibs and will be keen to maintain that by returning to his former club tonight.