As reported by The Scottish Sun, FC Zenit star Branislav Ivanovic is struggling for fitness ahead of their massive clash with Celtic this Thursday in the UEFA Europa League.
Brendan Rodgers’ side are up against it this week with the visit of the Russian Premier League side, who are the current top scorers in this season’s Europa League.
However, they could be without one of their defensive mainstays after boss Roberto Mancini admitted time is running out on his recovery from an eye injury suffered during their winter break.
As quoted by The Scottish Sun, the Zenit boss said:
He must undergo a physical examination. He must meet with a doctor and then we can say when Ivanovic returns to the squad and when the period of recovery will finally end. All we can do is rejoice at the fact that, fortunately, we do not have other serious injuries.
The paper report that although taking part in specialist training sessions last week, the Serbia captain failed to take part in the Russians’ final friendly warm-up game against Maribor at the weekend.
The versatile Ivanovic has a regular for Roberto Mancini since joining from Chelsea last year, making 27 appearances in all competitions for the Russian side so far this season.
Only two players have made more, so clearly he’s seen as a vital component of their defensive line, starting most of their matches at centre-back, also deputising at right-back.
Given his experience at the highest level of the game with Chelsea, losing him is a big blow to Celtic’s visitors, although they can still call upon the likes of Portugal international Luis Neto and Slovenian star Miha Mevlja to partner Emmanuel Mammana.
However, as Celtic fans will know, any change in a defensive line can have a destabilising effect and perhaps the injury to Ivanovic is something that the Hoops can capitalise on.
Can Moussa Dembele and the rest of the Hoops attack overwhelm what could be an untested back four unit?