Celtic duo Kristoffer Ajer and Jozo Simunovic have a huge opportunity on their hands

By David Walton

January 30, 2019

With much being made of the potentially severe Filip Benkovic injury, not much has been made of the big opportunity for a certain duo tonight.

There’s been no confirmation that both Kristoffer Ajer and Jozo Simunovic will start tonight. But outside of Benkovic and Dedryck Boyata, the pair have more appearances than any of the other Celtic defenders. They’re first reserves in all but their title, and will surely play alongside each other tonight.

It’s a partnership we haven’t seen since the 1-1 draw in Suduva back in August. The pair have played in the same team since, but Ajer has been taking up an unusual position down the right.

Filip Benkovic has played in some huge matches for Celtic (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

But with both Benkovic and Boyata out, it’s likely time to call the duo back into action together.

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And who’s to say a dominant performance against Tony Watt and co won’t do them a power of good?

For a short while, it looks as though this is a combination that could get a run of games. Unless Celtic bring in a late acquisition, Ajer and Simunovic should remain first-choice until Boyata regains his fitness.

Boyata’s injury severity remains a mystery

At the moment, it’s also unclear as to how long Boyata will be out for. Including tonight’s match, that will be three consecutive games he’ll have missed. With matches coming thick and fast, rushing the big Belgian back could be a mistake.

That presents Ajer and Simunovic with an extremely rare opportunity of a potential run of games, starting tonight.

Nothing less than a dominant display will do either. Celtic haven’t conceded a goal in any of the first three matches since coming back from the Winter break. It would look good for the duo if they stretched that run to four tonight, and made no notable individual mistakes.

Filip Benkovic could be out for the season (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Should they do that, they would likely keep their places for the trip to St Johnstone on Sunday.

But a failure to look convincing? Celtic may well be running themselves ragged tomorrow looking for a replacement for Benkovic right enough.

Football is a simple game. You play well and you keep your place in the team. Ajer and Simunovic, for the first time in five months, have the chance to do that as a duo.

The question is whether or not they can take it.