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Saturday 10 December 2016

Rodgers hails Kolo ahead of Gers semi

Kolo Toure
Kolo Toure

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers insists he will have no hesitation throwing Kolo Toure back into the Old Firm spotlight after his Champions League nightmare.

The Ivorian was to blame for both the goals the Hoops conceded in Wednesday night's 2-0 defeat to Borussia Monchengladbach at Parkhead.

But Rodgers refuses to point the finger of blame at his former Liverpool lieutenant.

The Celtic manager praised the 35-year-old for turning down more lucrative offers elsewhere to join his side in the summer and reckons that shows a steely character which will enable him to cope with the unique pressures which await in tomorrow's Betfred Cup semi-final showdown with Rangers.

Speaking in his pre-match press conference ahead of the Hampden clash, the Northern Irishman said: "Kolo is a wonderful player. The mark of the man is that after the game and the couple of moments he had, he came straight out and held his hands up.

"This is a guy who at 35 years of age could have travelled anywhere in the world to play, make a load of money, eat nice food and just relax and enjoyed his life.

"Instead he wanted to play at a top European club in the best possible competition he could, so he came here to Celtic.

"And he's been absolutely brilliant since he came here.

"It's just unfortunate the mistakes the other night. No one feels it more than him but we are very much together. Of course the spotlight goes on to Kolo but he's a strong guy mentally and will be fine the next time he is asked to play."

Meanwhile, Rangers have suffered a major blow ahead of the showdown after playmaker Niko Kranjcar was struck down with a serious knee injury.

The Croatian is definitely out of tomorrow's Betfred Cup semi-final clash with Celtic at Hampden and could be sidelined for months to come if the injury is as bad as Gers chiefs fear.

Former Portsmouth and Tottenham midfielder Kranjcar damaged knee ligaments in a freak training ground accident on Tuesday.

Ibrox medics are now waiting for the swelling to go down before they are able to fully assess the problem but he could be ruled out for six months or more if the issue turns out to be a ruptured cruciate ligament.

His loss is a huge setback for Light Blues boss Mark Warburton, who has been seeing more from the 32-year-old in recent weeks after a sluggish start to his Glasgow switch.

Kranjcar looked well off the pace when Gers were given a 5-1 pasting in their first derby duel with Brendan Rodgers' rampant Hoops last month and was hooked at half-time.

But his influence has grown since then, with glimpses of his best form clear in the recent 2-0 win over Partick Thistle after he netted a sensational opener.

Rangers will also be without Kranjcar's former QPR team-mate Joey Barton when they run out at the national stadium to face their old rivals, with the Englishman's Ibrox career effectively over after a fall-out with Warburton.

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