Sutton urged to adopt caution

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Alan Thompson, the Celtic midfielder, has urged his team-mate Chris Sutton not to make a premature return from injury. The in-form striker has been ruled out for anything up to six weeks after a collision with the Livingston defender Marvin Andrews on Boxing Day left him with ankle-ligament damage.

Thompson spent eight weeks on the sidelines with the same type of injury while playing for Aston Villa, and believes Sutton must allow himself time to recover fully before attempting a comeback.

However, he admits the former Chelsea and Blackburn forward's injury could leave the Scottish Premier League champions with problems up front if Henrik Larsson or John Hartson pick up knocks.

"He is doing not too bad," said Thompson of Sutton. "I had that problem myself and you have to be careful because if you come back too early you could go straight back out again. Sometimes in these situations it's better to have a fracture. That is not the case here, but hopefully it will start healing quickly.

"We're down to the bare bones really, because if either Henrik or John get injured we'll be struggling. We will miss him [Sutton], as Chris and Henrik has probably been the manager's favourite pairing. But, before the game against Livingston, John had four goals in five games and he was unlucky not to be in the team in that match."

Thompson feels the recent defeat against Aberdeen could be the reality check Celtic needed to ensure they don't become complacent in the race for the championship.

"We obviously felt low after the Aberdeen game, but the one positive thing out of a negative is that it's a feeling we don't want to be associated with, and it's something we don't want to happen regularly," said Thompson.

He added that another low point from their trip to Pittodrie was being hit by snowballs from the crowd as the atmosphere inside the stadium grew more intense.

"The kids were at home watching the game and the missus couldn't stop them crying after seeing their daddy get pelted with snowballs," he said.

"The referee told Stilian Petrov and myself to come out of the way until they stopped throwing them. But how long is it going to take them to stop throwing snowballs? We thought we would be best just getting on with it.

"Unless they put a stone in one of them there's not much harm. I suppose that's always a possibility, but you just have to get on with it."

Meanwhile, arch-rivals Rangers' sidelined midfielder Christian Nerlinger could be back in action in time for the month that will shape his club's season.

The German, who has been missing since the third game of the season because of a foot injury, is convinced he is only a few weeks away from a comeback. And he feels he could not have timed it better, as February sees not only a CIS Insurance Cup semi-final date with Celtic but also a Uefa Cup last-16 match with Feyenoord.

"I hope I can come back in time for all the big games in February. I don't want to say for certain that's when I will return, but it's a realistic target for me to set.

The £1.6m summer signing from Borussia Dortmund has been out of action since 1 August, after he injured a tendon in a foot. But following an operation in the United States, the German international is on the road to recovery, having recently resumed training with the first-team squad.