BRENDAN RODGERS insists there is no need for Celtic to panic buy a centre-half after being left short in Norway.

And the Hoops boss has given his backing to Nir Bitton to step into the breach like he did in the win away to Rosenborg and make himself a key player for the club this season.

The Scottish champions finished the 1-0 Champions League qualifier in Trondheim with the Israeli partnering Jozo Simunovic on the back of Erik Sviatchenko going off in the first half with a knee knock. He later travelled home to Glasgow with his leg heavily strapped up.

Read more: Brendan Rodgers: Celtic went into play-off last time with hope, now we have belief

On top of that, first-pick Dedryck Boyata is out until the end of September with a knee injury sustained in a pre-season friendly with Slavia Prague. Rodgers also left out 19-year-old Kristoffer Ajer for the return leg on Wednesday, with the Celtic manager confirming afterwards that he was simply not selected.

Despite that defensive headache, the Northern Irishman remains defiant that his squad is able to cope with the rigours of the start of the domestic campaign and a crunch Champions League play-off.

He said: “We won’t be getting someone in. We have Bitton who can play there.

“It depends. If we are talking about Scottish football and the ball getting smashed up the pitch, then you can have two big guys who can head it.

“But we are not playing that way. We can cope. We have Ajer who’s 6ft 5ins, but he can play. We’ll have Boyata back in September, Lustig can play there.

“We don’t need to worry about centre half.”

Read more: Brendan Rodgers: Celtic went into play-off last time with hope, now we have belief

A big part of Rodgers’ relaxed attitude is probably founded in the performance of Bitton on Wednesday night. With Sviatchenko off the park after just 25 minutes, the central midfielder looked unflappable at the back in what was an intimidating atmosphere in the Lerkendal Arena.

While the Celtic manager has said Ajer can play at centre-half, the display of the 26-year-old Bitton on the European stage could see him slot back for the last hurdle the Parkhead side attempt to clear to make it into the Champions League group stage.

For Bitton, a player who has struggled for game time in recent months, it could be a blessing in disguise.

“That’s just what he is and what we expect from him,” said Rodgers. “He’s a very, very good player. He’s a controlling player but in that role we have Brown, and we have Kouassi, who is a big talent.

“But I like to have a midfielder who can play centre half. That allows the team to play through and get more attackers on the field.

“He’s top class in his work. He’s very good for our squad, he can play a number of positions and he understands how I want to work.

“He’s someone the players like and should his importance the other night.”

Read more: Brendan Rodgers: Celtic went into play-off last time with hope, now we have belief

Meanwhile, James Forrest believes his crucial goal to sink Rosenborg could be one of the best he’s ever scored for Celtic. It was a terrific strike in off the crossbar that secured the club’s progression to the play-off round, and he told Celtic TV: “It’s definitely up there.

“It was frustrating in the first-leg but we came over here and I think we played really well. To get that goal and to get us through to the next round is a great feeling.

“I took the touch out of my feet and I just wanted to strike it clean. I’m glad it went in and I’m absolutely delighted.”

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