Celtic winger James Forrest has been ruled out of the Old Firm derby against Rangers at Ibrox in January, with the 29-year-old suffering an ankle setback.
The Scotland international has not appeared since September when he picked up an ankle injury against Riga FC in the Europa League.
According to Hoops boss Neil Lennon, Forrest has come off crutches but will not be available until the end of next month.
Celtic had hoped that the attacker could be back as soon as the end of December.
“He is coming off the crutches at the weekend, which is a step in the right direction,” he said (via Scottish Sun).
“We’re probably looking at the end of January. By then we will have an idea of where he is.”
The two rivals face-off on January 2, in a match that could prove vital in the Scottish Premiership title race.
At his best Forrest is one of Celtic’s most exciting attacking weapons and his absence has directly correlated with an awful run of form for Lennon’s side. They have won just four matches in all competitions since mid-October and their defeat to Rangers at Parkhead, with the gap between the two teams at the top of the table now 13 points.
On the other hand, Rangers have had very good luck for injuries for much of this season, with only Ryan Jack and Filip Helander a concern in recent weeks. Both should be back in time for the packed Christmas schedule though.
However, this will not lead to complacency for Gers boss Steven Gerrard, who once again went with a strong side on Sunday as Rangers beat Dundee United 2-1 at Tannadice Park. His team remain unbeaten in all competitions this season and have their last nine league matches in a row, with Hibernian the last team to stop them winning.
The former England midfielder has opted against rotation in recent matches and selected an almost full-strength lineup to face Micky Mellon’s team, using only three of his possible five substitutes.
Gerrard will know the psychological impact a win over Celtic in the New Year could have on his side, for good or for worse, and he will already be plotting a way to get the better of them.
In other Rangers news, Gers man didn’t do enough to force way into Gerrard’s plan v Poznan