Is tonight a real chance for Celtic outcast Nir Bitton to prove his worth?

By David Walton

February 6, 2019

Nir Bitton will most likely be handed a rare first-team opportunity tonight. But is it temporary, or could he really prove his worth?

Celtic will take to the field to face a strong Hibernian outfit at Celtic Park this evening. They also do so on the back of a well-documented horror injury list.

In the unavailable list tonight, Kristoffer Ajer, Filp Benkovic, and Dedryck Boyata all stand out at the back. Even if the big Belgian is back in training, he still isn’t available for tonight’s contest.

Dedryck Boyata is back training, but still isn’t ready to play (Ole Martin Wold/AFP/Getty Images)

That will surely provide Bitton with the chance to step in and perform. His direct rival for a starting spot tonight would be Jack Hendry, but he’s not been in any of the last few match-day squads since the injuries occurred. Bitton, meanwhile, has been.

But does tonight go down as a big opportunity for the Israeli? Or is he just doing Brendan Rodgers a favour until Boyata returns?

History shows that Rodgers does indeed like Bitton. During the first campaign under the Northern Irishman, Rodgers gave Bitton an incredible 41 appearances.

Nir Bitton has always been in Rodgers’ good books

Despite the arrival of Olivier Ntcham generally blocking Bitton’s route to the starting XI last season, he also still managed a further 24 outings.

He was still well in contention for places before a cruel knee injury last February kept him out for 11 months. He’s lost nearly a year of his career after being a realiable and consistent servant to Rodgers.

So tonight against Hibs, this isn’t just another player coming in as cover. Bitton isn’t simply here to play second-fiddle until the big boys return from injury.

Nir Bitton will be looking to reconnect with the Celtic supporters once again (Vagelis Georgariou/Action Plus via Getty Images)

Instead, the utility man has a real point to prove to the Celtic manager in that he can still do a job. That’s the one thing he has to make known tonight when he likely plays alongside Jozo Simunovic.

Bitton will be craving the status he once had at Parkhead. A solid and reliable performer who Rodgers consistently gave game-time to. It’s certainly not inconceivable that Bitton gets that squad status back.

But a good performance tonight is essential. A mistake against Hibs, and everyone will be talking about how he’s no use.