Neil Lennon’s Nir Bitton experiment can now surely be put to bed after Christopher Jullien’s display yesterday.
The Frenchman made his Celtic debut against Rennes in yesterday’s Parkhead friendly. It was clear he’s still building up his match-sharpness, but that will only come through playing every week.
In the main, Jullien was dominant enough. He got some important blocks in, and looked a composed figure on the ball. Even when Rennes tried a high press, there were no glaring errors from the big centre-back.
Meanwhile, Lennon continued to use Bitton at centre-back to start the game too. The Celtic boss has already stated that playing the Israeli in that position isn’t ideal (Scottish Sun). That was, unfortunately, proven once again against Rennes yesterday.
Nir had long spells of not having too much to do, but yet again there were a couple of loose passes out of defence that the visiting side didn’t take advantage of. Perhaps in a competitive match they would’ve done. But Celtic got away with it yesterday.
It also follows similar lapses in concentration from Bitton in Sarajevo too. It’s not something we should really go ahead with in future Champions League ties, as we’re putting ourselves at risk.
You can see why Lennon felt compelled to do it. He didn’t fancy playing Anthony Ralston in Sarajevo, and that forced him to use Kristoffer Ajer against the Bosnians away from home at right-back.
Nir Bitton experiment has run its course
But Jullien has proven that he’s ready to face the opening Champions League qualification matches. He and Jozo Simunovic could easily now strike up a partnership that wouldn’t have supporters as concerned as they are with Bitton.
After all, you would fancy the Jullien that played yesterday against the likes of Sarajevo and Shkendija comfortably. Meanwhile, he can continue building up his match-sharpness and be nearly at 100% by the time we play in the third qualifying round (should we make it).
That was one of the real positives to come out of yesterday that not many have spoken about – we can now ditch the Bitton at centre-back experiment early this year. Whether Lenny does, of course, is a different story.
There’s no denying that Ralston perhaps didn’t do himself many favours against Rennes. But if Lenny wants to play Ajer, he has a glaringly obvious partnership he can now play in Jullien/Simunovic.
Jullien also didn’t look tired when he came off in the second half yesterday. Lennon was perhaps trying to keep him wrapped up in cotton wool. And hopefully, that’s so he can start building up his first partnership with either Simunovic or Ajer on Wednesday night.
Bitton, meanwhile, can join the ranks in midfield once more. It’s his natural position and where he’s most effective. On account of the last two matches, trying to pretend he’s anything else just doesn’t wash.