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Simunovic shines

By September 22, 2016No Comments

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers predicted a big future for Jozo Simunovic after the defender made his first start since January 23 in Wednesday’s 2-0 Betfred Cup quarter-final win over Alloa at Parkhead.

The 22-year-old Croatian, who battled back from a knee injury sustained against St Johnstone, saw a move to Serie A club Torino collapse before the transfer window closed.

Rodgers welcomed him back into the fold and brought him on as substitute in Sunday’s 2-2 Ladbrokes Premiership draw at Inverness, and the former Dinamo Zagreb player, who joined the Scottish champions in 2015, got 70 minutes against the Wasps before being replaced by Ryan Christie.

And the Northern Irishman insisted after the match that Simunovic has a “150 per cent” chance of becoming a regular under him.

“He is a big talent,” Rodgers said. “He looks a top player and I am talking more in training than in the games because he only came back the other day at Inverness and the plan was to try to get him through 60 to 70 minutes (on Wednesday night).

“If you look at his profile, he is 6ft 3in, he is very dominant, strong, quick, can serve the ball and for a young player shows a wonderful mentality.

“He is a player I really like and hopefully he can stay fit.”

Late goals from James Forrest and Moussa Dembele fired the Hoops into the semi-final.

Meanwhile, UEFA’s disciplinary panel will on Thursday hear Celtic’s case over the displaying of dozens of Palestinian flags during their Champions League qualifying win over Israel’s Hapoel Be’er Sheva.

The European governing body opened proceedings over “illicit banner” charges following last month’s game at Parkhead.

Celtic have been punished eight times in five seasons by UEFA for their supporters’ behaviour, including a fine of about £16,000 two years ago after a Palestine flag was displayed at a Champions League qualifier against KR Reykjavik.

The UEFA rule in question forbids the use of “gestures, words, objects or any other means to transmit any message that is not fit for a sports event, particularly messages that are of a political, ideological, religious, offensive or provocative nature”.

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