Celtic man Nir Bitton talks set-piece woes in brutally honest international review

By Euan Davidson

October 14, 2021

Israel and Celtic man Nir Bitton isn’t looking forward to making his return to Scottish football, after Scotland’s 3-2 win at Hampden.

Bitton, who played both of Israel’s fixtures during the international break, was left aghast by shoddy set-piece defending in Scotland’s last-gasp win. It’s a trend that’s followed him from Celtic, who have had nothing but bother from corners and free kicks for seasons now.

The versatile Israel international featured in the win over Aberdeen. Manager Ange Postecoglou seems to recognise that he’s better as a holding midfielder than as a centre-back. Having let the boss down against FC Midtjylland, Bitton is hoping for a long-term reprieve in his favoured spot.

He could well start again, with Motherwell facing Celtic on Saturday afternoon.

But he hardly sounds too excited about the immediate future. Bitton said [Daily Record]:

“The biggest nightmare for me is to return to Scotland right now.

“I have mixed feelings about the game because I think we played a relatively good match in Glasgow.

“There was an amazing atmosphere and their crowd pushed them to the end.

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“I think towards the end of the game, Scotland really pressurised us and once again we lost out to a set-piece right at the end.”

“Once again”; Celtic man Nir Bitton sounds fed up with conceding from corners and free kicks

You can’t really blame him, can you?

It’s not as if Celtic are remotely formidable from the same situations. There’s been improvement, sure, but it’s been incremental. Corners cost us against Hearts and Rangers, most notably.

It’s got to be hard, too, coming back to play in the country where you’ve just been beaten internationally. The Hampden crowd were particularly raucous for a classic between Scotland and Israel, and that’ll surely stick in the memory.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

The only thing for Bitton to do now is improve. With neither of Ismaila Soro nor James McCarthy pulling up any trees, the defensive midfielder has an opportunity.

As something of an anchor for the defence, Bitton can be best utilised to provide cover for McGregor and either Turnbull or Rogic just ahead of him. It worked against Aberdeen, and at the time of writing, it’s surely his role if he wants it.

Hopefully, his return to Scotland won’t be a nightmare after all. Fir Park awaits on Saturday.

Read more: Celtic source confirms no vaccine passports needed for Motherwell clash