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Simunovic will come back stronger: Lennon

 

Long lay-off: Jozo Simunovic
Long lay-off: Jozo Simunovic

By Ronnie Esplin

Neil Lennon has revealed that Celtic defender Jozo Simunovic will be out until next year following a clean-up of his knee.

The 25-year-old Croatian has been sidelined since the Hoops' 2-0 victory over AIK last month.

It was reported he was expected to miss another three weeks following his operation earlier this month but ahead of today's league trip to Hibernian, the Parkhead boss said: "You are probably looking at three to four months.

"It was a clean-up and he knows what to do for his rehab and we are just discussing maybe if he can go away for a few weeks and do his rehab at home.

"He is alright. It is a blow for us and the player.

"He felt it was a necessity and thankfully it is not a micro-fracture again, which is a serious operation where you are out for six to eight months.

"He has had a clean-up and obviously we have to tread carefully on his rehab and the sooner we get him back the better."

Striker Leigh Griffiths remains out with a thigh strain as well as a virus which could leave him a doubt for Scotland's upcoming Euro 2020 qualifying double-header against Russia and San Marino on October 10 and 13 respectively.

Griffiths' last appearance for Celtic was as a substitute against Hearts last month and he was left out of Steve Clarke's squad for the games against Russia and Belgium earlier in the month.

Lurgan-born Lennon said: "Not only has he got a thigh strain, he has a bit of a virus.

"I would love for him to be in the (Scotland) squad but he has not played much football recently so that will be Steve's call."

The league leaders will play Hibs in their Betfred Cup semi-final at Hampden Park on Saturday, November 2 with a 5.30pm kick-off.

Rangers play Hearts in the other semi-final the following day with a 3pm kick-off.

"It is a bit of an awkward time for a kick-off," said former Celtic skipper Lennon.

"They brought in 5.30 kick-offs when I was a player here in 2000/2001, a little bit of an adjustment that's all.

"It will be a different routine for the players in pre-match but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

"It is a strange time for kick-off but no issues with it really," he added.

Lennon insists that today's league game against Hibs will have no bearing on the semi-final.

He said: "Not really. You don't know what sort of form either team are going to be in going into the semi-final and anything can happen on any given day.

"So I don't think (today) is an indicator at all."

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