Celtic have been dealt a major blow with confirmation that midfielder Beram Kayal will miss the rest of the season taking the gloss off a fine 3-0 Scottish Cup win at Peterhead.
Irish striker Anthony Stokes grabbed an impressive hat-trick on Sunday to ease Celtic into a fourth round date with bogey side Inverness or Dunfermline.
But the win was marred by news that Kayal’s ankle surgery has ruled him out until next August at the earliest after picking up the injury in the last Rangers game.
A statement on Celtic’s official website on Tuesday read, “Beram Kayal underwent surgery last night on his injured ankle and the club can confirm that, unfortunately, our worst fears have been realized and Beram will be out of action for at least four months.”
Manager Neil Lennon said, “This is very sad news for Beram. He has been brilliant for us and instrumental in our performances during the season.
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“He will definitely be a big loss for us, but more importantly we are disappointed for him to be missing such a large part of the season at a time when he was playing so well.
“Clearly his health and fitness is now our priority and we will be making sure he gets our total support during the coming period.”
Irishman Stokes took advantage of Gary Hooper’s absence through injury on Sunday to grab all three goals in a potentially tricky tie at Third Division Peterhead as he joined his fellow striker on 15 goals for the season in the race to become the club’s top scorer.
“I haven’t spoken to Gary yet but I may give him a text on the way home! It’s a bit of banter,” laughed Stokes afterwards. “The two of us see ourselves as goal scorers and it doesn’t affect us when we play on the pitch. If someone else is in a better position we give them the ball.
“I think that is us joint now -- I won’t remind him of that. I’m sure he would have liked to have played and tried to notch one or two but I’m sure it will be close come the end of the season.”
Celtic still have an interest in all three major Scottish trophies but Stokes insisted, “We are not looking at the treble to be honest with you. We are just taking each game as it comes. We knew coming up here that it was a tricky draw and we just wanted to get the result.”
Lennon was unhappy after the game about a challenge by Peterhead midfielder Jamie Redman on Joe Ledley which resulted in the Wales international being withdrawn after suffering a facial injury.
“I wasn’t happy with the challenge on Ledley but the referee deemed that to be accidental. There were a few meaty challenges going around but you expect that when you come away from home in the cup,” said Lennon.
Lennon has also dismissed speculation he is prepared to sell Celtic trio Kris Commons, Gary Hooper and Adam Matthews during the January transfer window.
Manager Lennon is currently talking to back-up goalkeeper Lukasz Zaluska about a new contract.
“I have had a chat with Lukasz this week and I’ll speak to him again early in the week and hopefully we can get it resolved,” Lennon said. “I don’t think we’re far away now. I hope he will sign. We would like to keep him.”
Rapid Vienna’s Albania international striker Hamdi Salihi has said he would welcome a move to Celtic in the January transfer window while Nigerian midfielder Rabiu Ibrahim is training with the club this week after negotiating his release on a free transfer from Dutch side PSV Eindhoven.
Keane for Villa
Ireland captain Robbie Keane wants to sharpen his Euro 2012 goal scoring instincts during his return to the Premier League with Aston Villa.
Keane has signed a two-month loan deal with the English club ahead of the new MLS season with the LA Galaxy.
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