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Brendan Rodgers gives timeline on return of injured Celtic defender

Alistair Johnston is back training on grass, the final step in his injury rehab.

The defender picked up a knock on international duty at the end of June and has yet to be involved under Brendan Rodgers.

Johnston’s injury probably dates back to the end of April when he was injured in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup although he managed to celebrate on crutches after the final whistle.

The defender returned to play against Aberdeen in the final SPFL match of the season then completed his Scottish medal collection a week later by beating Inverness Caley Thistle in the Scottish Cup.

Tony Ralston has proven to be a very capable replacement for Johnston but the January signing is widely regarded as an update on Josip Juranovic who he replaced in January.

Injuries were discussed at Wednesday’s media conference with Rodgers:

Alistair Johnston is back on the grass running and working and upping his intensity, which is really good news. Marco Tilio is out on the grass as well and moving well, so that will be great and we expect him to be back in the middle of September.

It looks like the September 3 match at Ibrox will be too early for Johnston even though he did make his debut in that fixture in January.

Holding back from that match will allow the former Montreal defender to join up with the Canada squad, play for his international side then get back involved at Celtic against Dundee on September 16 ahead of the midweek Champions League opener.

Missing out on pre-season is usually best avoided but over the last 12 months Johnston has been playing non-stop from the MLS into the World Cup Finals then settling at Celtic and that January 2 Ibrox debut.

Getting Johnston back into the side to the right of Cameron Carter-Vickers will bring some stability to the Celtic defence after the pre-season disruptions, giving Rodgers a better idea of what is required to strengthen his defence.

Tilio’s availability presents Celtic and the player with a problem of how he gets upto speed with the Scottish game.

The former Melbourne City winger is too old to play in the Lowland League although playing on plastic against fifth tier opponents isn’t going to improve his game.

With Yang Hyun-jun featuring in Celtic’s last three matches Rodgers is already well covered on the right wing through Liel Abada and James Forrest.

Going out on loan to another SPFL Premiership club would be an option with Rodgers better able to assess his wide options in January.

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