Ange Postecoglou revealed the injured Kyogo Furuhashi and Celtic’s medical team had contrasting expectations about a return date for the Japan forward.
But Postecoglou fully expects his key striker to be back before Rangers visit Parkhead on January 2 and would not rule him out of next Sunday’s Premier Sports Cup final against Hibernian.
Celtic came through their first test without a recognised striker by beating Motherwell 1-0 thanks to a Tom Rogic strike in first-half stoppage time, following an inventive free-kick by David Turnbull.
Turnbull was Celtic’s most attacking central player with Albian Ajeti and Giorgos Giakoumakis out alongside Furuhashi.
But there was another fitness blow for Celtic when James Forrest trudged off with a muscle problem early on after starting in the left-wing slot usually filled by the injured Jota.
Postecoglou had earlier revealed Furuhashi’s injury was “not significant”.
“Albian Ajeti probably won’t be back before the break but Kyogo will definitely be back before the break,” Postecoglou added. “It’s just a matter of seeing how he feels.”
When asked about Furuhashi’s hopes of making the Hampden clash, he added: “Mate, I could say yes, I could say no. If you ask Kyogo he probably would have played today, if you ask the medical team, they would say he’s out for two or three weeks.
“I’m kind of taking a stab in the dark in the middle somewhere, but I’ve no idea. I’ll be guided by the medical team and Kyogo.
“I can’t rule him out for anything at the moment, but you can’t rule him in.”
Postecoglou had taken a gamble on Forrest, who also went off injured against Dundee United the previous weekend.
“He hasn’t been 100 per cent but we felt that we could get an hour out of him,” he said. “But it didn’t work out.
“It’s not a great run we are going through. Unfortunately it’s in one area. It’s not as if it’s spread over the team, which is really challenging us.”
Forrest’s replacement, Mikey Johnston was also substituted.
“Mikey is not 100 per cent,” Postecoglou said. “That’s why we didn’t start him. We were going to bring him on at the end if we needed him but obviously with James going off we had no choice.
“I didn’t want to overburden him towards the end. He’d done enough for us. He did a great job considering he’s not 100 per cent fit.”
Postecoglou was pleased with how his side came through a tough first-half challenge from Motherwell with his makeshift strikeforce.
“If you do not get the second goal the opposition always feel they are in the game,” he added. “But I thought we were in pretty good control in the second half.”
Postecoglou hailed Rogic’s “enormous” contribution and added: “It was a bit of a different role for him, Dave and Cal (McGregor), we wanted them to use that space through the middle and to try and get into more attacking positions. All three of them did.”
Motherwell boss Graham Alexander was proud of his team’s efforts and felt they were harshly treated by referee Euan Anderson’s decision to penalise Callum Slattery as he tried to stand his ground at an aerial challenge with Rogic, which led to the goal.
“I didn’t think it was a free-kick,” Alexander said. “He (Anderson) set the bar early with what sort of challenge would be OK, which is fine, every ref interprets things differently, but then you take that as the bar.
“I thought it was a cheap free-kick to give but it’s a match-winning free-kick.
“They are a good team, they don’t need any favours. I’m not suggesting it was a favour but I just thought it was a cheap decision. Celtic showed their quality with the taking of it.”
Alexander, who saw Slattery hit the bar earlier on, added: “But I don’t want to take any reflection from how my team performed.
“It shows good signs that we are trying to progress our mentality and approach, when we play whatever opponent, we are always going to give it our best shot to win.”