Celtic ‘machine’ Maeda faces six weeks out

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has rued the loss of “machine” Daizen Maeda for six weeks with a knee injury sustained in the challenge that resulted in his red card against Atletico Madrid.

Maeda’s booking for a 50-50 challenge on Mario Hermoso was upgraded following VAR intervention in the first half of Celtic’s 6-0 Champions League defeat.

The Japan forward has started every game bar one this term, scoring twice.

“Daizen will probably be up to six weeks out,” said Rodgers.

“He has strained his medial knee ligament which comes from when you just knock a player on the foot.

“If he was in stronger in the challenge he probably wouldn’t have had the injury. The clash of feet has just opened up the knee ligament.

“It’s a big shame for us because he has been brilliant for me since I came here.

“It’s a big loss because his attitude and mentality going into every game is superb. He initiates the pressure for us at the top end.

“It’s a real shame because he has been like a machine since he came to Celtic. Watching him before I arrived and then coming here and seeing what he does every day and in the games, he is incredible. He hasn’t had too many knocks.

“But I always say it’s an opportunity for someone else to come in and play.”

Maeda is set to miss Celtic’s next six Scottish Premiership games, as well as their final two Champions League group outings as they try to salvage third place and a Europa League spot.

The injury blow adds to Rodgers’ frustration over the decision to send off Maeda in Madrid, with Celtic going on to concede a further five times.

Rodgers, whose side host Aberdeen on league duty on Sunday, said: “You only have to assess the incident. Everyone could see if you know football at all that there was no intention, he was just overstretching and both players clash feet.

“The irony is that as soon as the red card went up, their player miraculously got up off the floor.”

The Celtic boss believes VAR is “spoiling” the game and says he would prefer to scrap the technology and revert to “pure football”.

“There’s a lot that is good but the bad in it is very bad,” Rodgers added.

“Listen, if you ask me right now, I would get rid of it. Absolutely. But if there’s money been invested in it, for the greater good of the game, that is supposedly to make it better, then you have to give it every chance.

“But if you’re asking me now, I would go back to just pure football, and we know where there’s humans involved there will be mistakes. I would rather accept that than what we see at the minute.”