Neil Lennon’s selection of Boli Bolingoli vs Hibs was certainly one of the more intriguing decisions of the day.
Celtic managed to overcome Jack Ross’ Hibees outfit in a comfortable enough outing at Parkhead. The three points helped us leap ahead of Rangers in the Premiership table after their earlier victory over Motherwell.
One of the main performers today was Bolingoli. Just like he did against Cluj, he always offered himself as an option down the left. Going on his overlapping runs, he looked to combine with our attacking-midfielders and create opportunities.
At the same, however, there were also some sluggish moments. He gave the ball away on occasion with some loose passes, and he also showed some hesitancy at times when a more direct approach was the appropriate choice.
In any case, his inclusion is interesting. Many would’ve expected Jonny Hayes to have started this afternoon. After all, this is arguably our toughest game of the week. With Hayes’ consistency in recent times, he would’ve been the favourite.
Yes, Celtic still have Tynecastle to travel to before hosting Aberdeen at Parkhead on Saturday. The squad will definitely be used, and neither of those upcoming fixtures will be easy.
Boli given our most difficult game this week
However, Hearts are joint-bottom of the table, whilst Aberdeen were easily swept aside at Pittodrie by the Hoops before half-time back in October. In recent years, Hibs have given us more of a game than either of them, and have more successful results against us than their Premiership foes.
Boli’s inclusion today could indeed be a sign that Lennon is getting him back in as his first-choice. Despite the fact Hayes has done a reliable job over the last couple of months, he did start the season as back-up. With Boli being a Lennon signing, it wouldn’t surprise you if this is him being eased back in.
Yet, there is another possibility too. Tynecastle, as much as Hearts have been shocking, has proved tough for us in recent times. It’s also been proven to be a real battle, with Hearts never failing to go crunching into us when the game kicks-off.
Considering Boli has just returned to action, that may be a game that Lenny was protecting him from. Hayes, as things stand, is the more battle-hardened of the two. Lenny may not want Boli picking up ay more needless injuries with the Glasgow derby looming in two weeks’ time. That would also justify playing him today over Hayes.
Then there’s the case of Greg Taylor too. He was on the bench this afternoon after failing to make the squad against Rangers last week. He’s also proven to be a decent alternative. Given Hayes’ performances in Boli’s absence, however, Taylor may now be third choice.
But there’s no denying that Boli’s return makes this battle all the more intriguing. All eyes will turn to Wednesday night’s trip to Hearts. If Hayes doesn’t start after missing out here, it could put a totally different complexion on who Lenny views as first-choice. Today’s decision is a big shot-in-the-arm for the Belgian.