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Another injured defender rocks Rodgers’ pre-season plans

Celtic’s defensive injury problems have intensified with Tony Ralston the latest player to be ruled out of action.

With Alistair Johnston expected to be out for around another month the last thing that Brendan Rodgers wanted was an injury to his very reliable deputy right-back.

In Tuesday’s Daily Record and Sun, Rodgers speaks highly of Ralston from his first spell in charge but Celtic365 understands that the Scotland defender has missed the trip to Japan with concerns that he could be out of action for an extended period.

Those interviews were probably carried out before the squad flew out to Japan.

Ben McPherson is with the squad in Yokohama but it would be a big ask for him to step up from Lowland League football into the SPFL with matches at Pittodrie and Ibrox in the first batch of fixtures.

One unconventional option could be to play Reo Hatate at right-back, a position he played in twice last season when Ange Postecoglou’s squad was hit by unusual circumstances.

With Josip Juranovic on duty at the World Cup in Qatar injury to Ralston at home to Livingston forced Hatate into playing at right-back against St Johnstone and Hibs- scoring twice against the Perth side.

Johnston then came in for his debut at Ibrox and never looked back.

Right-back probably wasn’t considered a priority position to strengthen but if there are any concerns over Johnston being ready at some stage next month it could be an area that needs a quick fix.

Rodgers isn’t short of midfield options with Odin Thiago Holm replacing Aaron Mooy who announced his retirement after just one season as a Celt.

If Hatate moves to right-back it could create an opening for Holm or a return for David Turnbull to team up alongside Callum McGregor and Matt O’Riley in the centre of the park. Former Yokohama man Tomoki Iwata is also in the mix.

Wednesday’s match against Yokohama F Marinos is likely to see all of the squad used against opponents in mid-season with temperatures expected to be in the thirties despite the 7pm kick off.

Even without Jota and the injured duo of Mikey Johnston and Marco Tilio there are still four strong winger options fighting for places.

Daizen Maeda will be on familiar territory tomorrow with Liel Abada, James Forrest and Sead Haksabanovic all experienced enough to cope with the demands of pre-season matches.

Football Scotland has tonight reported interest in Gremio forward Ferreira but the back four will be the area that is giving Rodgers most concern as he prepares for two testing matches in Japan.

The games against Yokohama and Gamba will allow options to be tested out but other than McPherson there is no natural right-back available for selection.

The Korean duo of Hyun-jun Yang and Kwon Hyeok-kyu appear to be well on their way to Celtic although all of the news has been coming from Gangwon and Buson Ipark.

After the two games in Japan the squad will get a few days work in at Lennoxtown before they head to Dublin on July 28 to take on Wolves at the Aviva Stadium.

Home fans will then get to see the hoops in action on August 1 when Athletic Bilbao visit Celtic Park for the James Forrest Testimonial, after that the serious stuff begins with a visit from Ross County to open the defence of the SPFL Premiership.

CLICK HERE for Celtic’s gallery from training on Tuesday with no sign of Ralston.

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