Olivier Ntcham’s return provides Celtic with a huge boost for Sunday, but he shouldn’t start against Rangers.
The Frenchman returned to training at the end of last week. Ntcham featured in a bounce game against Morton last Friday, but hasn’t played competitively since the 1-0 loss to Rangers in December.
On his day, Ntcham is arguably the most technically gifted player in the Premiership. His range of passing is perhaps the best in Scotland when on top form. And if he was fully-fit and firing, he would likely be a key name on the team-sheet.
So far this season, Ntcham has recorded a cool 30 appearance. He was a key figure under Brendan Rodgers before his injury, and his return to full fitness can’t come soon enough.
But Celtic have had a settled partnership in there since the winter break in Callum McGregor and Scott Brown. On the occasions Celtic have looked slow and ponderous in the midfield, it’s often been when Nir Bitton has started.
The combination of Brown and McGregor, however, bounce off each other well. Not starting Brown, for example, is unthinkable. He has effectively ruled this derby for the last seven years. His poor display at Ibrox should be looked at as a pro for his inclusion as opposed to a con. Nobody will be out to prove doubters wrong more than the Celtic captain.
Brown and McGregor the number one option
And how could you possibly justify dropping McGregor? He is perhaps the most influential player in the Celtic squad at the moment. With 57 appearances for club and country this season, McGregor could be breaking records this term.
His drive from midfield as well as his technique has proved invaluable against Rangers in the past. He remains one of our biggest goal threats from the midfield and has struck three times against Rangers too.
The argument for Ntcham’s inclusion could be the fact that the number 10 position could still be a problem. Tom Rogic looks like being in contention, but if he isn’t then there’s an argument to push McGregor forward and have Ntcham sit just behind beside Brown.
Even throwing Rogic in is questionable, but you wonder where the alternatives are. Both he and Ntcham add great depth to the squad. But the latter simply adds it as quality from the bench if needed.
At the end of the day, Neil Lennon’s Celtic spell will be defined by these kinds of decisions. But breaking up a successful midfield partnership is surely out of the question.
Would you throw Ntcham back in on Sunday? Give us your verdict in the comments section.