Celtic to investigate Reo Hatate fitness issues after latest hamstring injury

Celtic will look to get to the bottom of Reo Hatate’s fitness issues as they wait to learn the extent of the midfielder’s latest lay-off.

The in-form Hatate is facing several weeks on the sidelines after suffering a hamstring injury early in Celtic’s 2-2 Champions League draw against Atletico Madrid.

The Japan international had a six-week spell out with a similar problem towards the end of last season and missed a month with a calf injury earlier this term.

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s meeting with Hibernian, manager Brendan Rodgers said: “We don’t have a definitive timeline but he will definitely be out for a few weeks. We are just waiting for it to settle down and waiting for the result and we will see where he’s at but it looked quite a bad one.

“If you watch the game, the first 35 seconds he has over-stretched and he has felt it early on.

“It’s such a shame for him. It’s a different one. He was out with his hamstring last year, it’s his other one this time. So we just need to try to get to the bottom of that.”

Paulo Bernardo, who is yet to start a game since his loan move from Benfica, replaced Hatate on Wednesday.

“It’s always disappointing when players of that quality are missing but our strength is our team and Paulo came in and made his longest appearance he has made,” Rodgers said. “And I thought he coped very, very well.

“We have a number of young players that can step up if Reo is going to be out for a period of time. It always presents an opportunity.

“For any player, whoever it is coming in, without forcing it, you want them to make an impact. I don’t want them to feel big pressure that this is the only chance they are going to get, but take the opportunity when it comes.

“And (Bernardo) certainly did that the other night. He worked very, very hard in a high-level game, showed quality, had that bit of bite in midfield. I thought he did very well.”

Rodgers switched to a 3-5-2 formation in the second half after being pegged back following a first-half display full of pace and purpose.

“I was really proud of the team the other night in terms of how they played,” he said. “I think we are in the process of becoming a really good side at the level.

“The cynics will look at it and say, well you have got one point from three games. But it’s more than that, and it’s more than this season, it’s about next season and the season after.

“We are in the process of becoming a good side – dynamic, fast, goal threat, and defensively compact, tight, aggressive, and when the need comes in a game to have that intelligence to change tactically, then being able to do that. And the players did it really well.

“Getting to around the 70-minute mark, playing against a team that are playing 3-5-2, they can really stretch your back four. There were spaces starting to open up.

“It wasn’t so much a defensive change to plug the gap because you can still be really aggressive and progressive in 3-5-2.

“I like teams to have the flexibility to change. We may not have to do it so much domestically but it’s an option for us if need be, to change the momentum in a game.”

Rodgers will face a new opponent at Easter Road in the form of former Central Coast Mariners manager Nick Montgomery.

“I really like what Nick is trying to,” he said. “Only in the door, looking to play an offensive game.

“There will probably be lots of people telling him that’s not the way to work but I have been through that many years ago in my early stages of management.

“I like they are trying to build the game from behind, work their way through the lines with speed, with quality, and looking to play an attacking game.”

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