James Forrest is set to miss Scotland’s crucial Euro Play-off on Thursday week, Neil Lennon has confirmed.
The country host Israel at Hampden Park in a game that could take Steve Clarke’s men to within 90 minutes of reaching the Finals.
However, the Celtic winger, whose hat-trick in a Nations League win against Israel in November, 2018 helped land the opportunity, is now rated a serious doubt to play by his club boss after being injured in Riga.
“Yes, I’d say that,” Lennon replied when asked the question.
“He is definitely out for Hibs, and after that we will just have to wait and see how it reacts and settles.
“He’s got bone bruising on his ankle, which can be very sore, tender and uncomfortable.
“From my own knowledge of it, it can take a few weeks to settle down. He was in a lot of pain when he came off last night.
“We’re waiting on a scan, so I haven’t got the definitive answer yet.”
The gloomy assessment is further bad news for national coach Clarke following confirmation Celtic’s trip to St Johnstone, originally scheduled for Friday, has been pushed back to a week today.
That will mean Scotland regulars Ryan Christie and Callum McGregor will be in action four days before the big match.
Lennon, while having sympathy for the struggles all international managers face assembling squads, has to worry about his own club.
“I was always under the assumption that the game would be played before the international break, and we want that,” said the Celtic boss.
“We don’t want any more backlogs. We’ve already got one game to complete against Aberdeen, and we don’t want a fixture backlog later on down the line.
“While it’s a quick turnaround, we want the game to be played and then the players who aren’t on international duty can get some much-needed R&R.”
The St Johnstone match has been moved to accommodate Celtic’s next Europa League test, which comes on Thursday.It is another trip to Bosnia to play Sarajevo, who they beat 3-1 away in the opening Champions League qualifier last season.
“The game is not going to be in Sarajevo. From what we gather it will be in Zenica,” said Lennon.
“That is where their last tie was played. It might be changed – that is outwith our control.
“Otherwise, I think they are pretty similar to where they were last season.
“They have changed some personnel, but are still a big, strong, athletic, physical outfit.
“So it will be a difficult one, and we will prepare for it as best we can.
“Hopefully our last experience will stand us in good stead.
“Our away form has been superb. Apart from away to Cluj last year, when we had already qualified, we have a very, very good unbeaten record in the last couple of years.
“That delights me, because playing away from home in Europe is very difficult to do.”
Before then, of course, there is the small matter of tackling Hibs at Celtic Park this afternoon.
The Edinburgh side arrive off the back of an eye-catching display in their 2-2 draw against Rangers last week, and the Hoops manager is full of praise for his counterpart, Jack Ross.
“He has done a cracking job and they have recruited well,” said Lennon.
“He has got players – who were maybe under-performing previously – playing with a bit of confidence and scoring goals, which you expect from a Hibs team.
“When their tails are up, they are a handful for anybody.”
Lennon’s last job in management before Celtic was at Hibs, and the 49-year-old remembers fondly how much he enjoyed his time in the capital following a difficult stint in charge of Bolton.
“I loved it. The players were great, the club was great,” he said.
“We had two great seasons. It was difficult to maintain that, but I really enjoyed the players there.
“Off the back of winning the Scottish Cup, you could see there was some real talent there.
“We had a really good first season, getting promotion and then the second season was fantastic as well, getting into Europe, playing some great stuff, and scoring lots of goals.
“The club itself was in a really good place, so it really refreshed me.
“Now Jack is in charge and, I think, trying to put his own stamp on it, and the players are responding very positively to that.”
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