After nearly 15 months on the sidelines, Socceroos starlet Daniel Arzani is poised for a long-awaited return to action for Celtic, possibly as a starter in Sunday’s (AEDT) Scottish Cup trip to Partick Thistle.
Conjecture over the exciting 20-year-old winger’s comeback date has mounted over recent months as he’s battled back from the anterior cruciate ligament injury which felled him just 20 minutes into his Scottish Premiership debut against Dundee back in October 2018.
There have been several false dawns and a number of time-consuming setbacks on the road to recovery for the Bhoys’ Manchester City loanee since crumpling to the turf that night.
But despite limited minutes for Celtic’s second string, Arzani appears to have convinced boss Neil Lennon he is ready to be promoted to his first senior squad since that devastating knee injury put his future on ice.
In a major hint that Lennon has bigger things in mind for Arzani, he played no part as Celtic’s development team beat Chelsea’s U-23s 1-0 in a behind-closed-doors match in the midweek, even though he’s back in full training.
A perfect storm of injuries, absences and exits is also weighing in Arzani’s favour heading into the league leaders’ journey to Firhill Stadium for the fourth round tie.
Attacking weapons Mikey Johnston, Mohamed Elyounoussi and Ryan Christie are all unavailable, whilst Lewis Morgan is off to the US and Scott Sinclair is on his way to Preston North End.
Arzani’s cameo against Dundee evoked praise from then-coach Brendan Rodgers and excitement among fans impressed with his impetuosity and instinctive qualities.
With his two-season loan from City almost up, the opportunity now beckons for Arzani to make up for lost time and push for an extension which was mooted several months back.
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold - who had hoped to take Arzani to Thailand for this month’s AFC U-23 Championship - will also be keeping a close watch on developments ahead of March’s next FIFA World Cup qualifier against Kuwait in Perth.
Recently returned from a training camp in Dubai, which Arzani was a part of, the cup holders are looking to bounce back quickly from their 2-1 Old Firm derby loss to Rangers heading into the winter break.