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Celtic boss Rodgers thinks plastic is far from fantastic

By Ronnie Esplin

Brendan Rodgers has never seen a good game of football on a synthetic surface and expects no better when his Celtic side visit Hamilton tomorrow.

The Hoops, who are 14 points clear of Rangers at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership with a game in hand over the Ibrox club, hope to extend their 21-match unbeaten domestic record when they travel to the SuperSeal Stadium to take on the Accies on their FIFA-approved artificial turf.

The Ulsterman, who saw his side win 1-0 on Kilmarnock's plastic pitch, claims the move from grass will have no bearing on his team selection as he revealed that winger James Forrest returns from a hamstring complaint while midfielder Tom Rogic remains out with an ankle problem.

However, Rodgers believes it will have a bearing on the quality of football.

"It is always difficult," he said. "Any coach or manager will tell you, it is always a different game on a plastic pitch.

"I have yet to see a good game on a plastic pitch but I have to respect that the conditions for every club are different.

"Hamilton are a football club that has produced many great young players so they have a way of working and that's what works for them, which is absolutely fine - I respect that.

"Most coaches will tell you the plastic pitch isn't ideal and that's where you feel for supporters because are they seeing the best game of football possible?

"For us, we have to turn up, be professional and look to get the job done."

Asked if it was a challenge to Celtic to produce a good game of football against the Lanarkshire side, the former Swansea and Liverpool boss said: "I don't think you can. I think it is about going there and getting a result.

"Like I say, I have never seen a good game of football on a plastic pitch.

"It brings lots of different elements to the game. It brings an unpredictability to the game that you wouldn't see in normal circumstances.

"I have seen a number of games on plastic pitches and been involved in a number of games on plastic pitches. I have yet to see a good one."

Celtic beat Hamilton 1-0 at home last week and Rodgers expects a similarly tough challenge.

He said: "They were a tough team to break down the last time we played them and it is on an AstroTurf pitch, of course, which makes it even more difficult, so we will go expecting another tough game but looking to continue with our sequence of good results."

The Parkhead manager is pleased to have Forrest back after the Scotland player missed four games with a hamstring problem picked up in the Champions League clash at Manchester City last month.

He said: "He is back quicker than we expected, which is a great testament to him and our medical team."

Rogic could be fit for the game against Ross County next week but, if not, the Hoops boss hopes to have him available for the big game against Rangers at Ibrox on December 31.

Rodgers has, meanwhile, told Torino that Jozo Simunovic is still very much part of his plans at Celtic.

A potential loan or permanent move to the Serie A club in August fell through but the Turin outfit are reportedly set to come back for the Croatian when the transfer window opens in January.

The former Dinamo Zagreb player has become an integral part of Rodgers' side since the Carnlough man took over the Premiership champions in the summer.

After the 1-0 win over bottom side Partick Thistle at Celtic Park on Tuesday night, where Scott Sinclair's first-half strike proved the difference, the ex-Reds manager was asked about his attitude to Torino's interest in the gifted Simunovic.

He said: "I think they have probably seen how well he's been doing.

"He's only a boy really at 22 years of age and developing very, very well.

"He's got all the attributes and still has improvements to make of course, but if you're a top club you would want someone like him.

"But he's very much a part of what we're building here."

After tomorrow's game at Hamilton, Celtic host Ross County on Wednesday night, before the Old Firm crunch with Rangers at Ibrox on New Year's Eve.

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