As we continue to try and look at some of the plus-points ahead of this weekend’s derby against Rangers, one of those falls into the path of Christopher Jullien.
Jullien has been a superb acquisition since he signed from Toulouse in the summer of 2019 for £7million (Scottish Sun). Within his first 15 months at the club he’s managed two trophies and 53 appearances. That’s not even counting his nine goals too (Transfermarkt).
Not too shabby for a centre-back that.
However, after picking up his first real injury at Parkhead several weeks ago, he’s had to look in from the outside as Nir Bitton has impressed in his place. So much so that Jullien’s last game was a month ago.
Yet just when it looked as if Bitton had secured his spot in Celtic’s back three, he’s gone and picked up Covid-19 ahead of Saturday’s meeting with Rangers. In addition to that, recent replacement Hatem Elhamed has also picked up the virus too.
What that means is that a path has opened up here for Jullien out of absolutely nowhere. A player who looked so destined to sit on the bench for this colossal tussle looks just as likely to be thrown into the mix now.
A back three or a back four?
Of course, that’s only if Neil Lennon decides to stick with a back three. Shane Duffy and Kristoffer Ajer are guaranteed starters at the heart of Celtic’s back-line. And if Lennon wants to focus on stopping Rangers’ width, he may want to utilise full-backs as part of a defensive four.
But you can’t ignore Jullien’s previous performances in this fixture. In truth, he’s never had a bad game once against them.
Jullien was dominant at Ibrox in his Glasgow derby debut back in September 2019 – a 2-0 success. He then followed that up with a winning goal and another clean sheet in the Betfred Cup at Hampden.
Even in the game we lost at Celtic Park back in December, Jullien came close with two headers and won us a penalty in the first half. He’s consistently been a thorn in their side, and that has to count for something when Lennon gets to restructuring his defence.
There are pros and cons to either a back three or a back four, but if it’s the former, Jullien has an incredibly glorious chance to win his place in the Celtic team back.
After sitting out the last six Celtic fixtures, it must be playing on the big man’s mind. Hopefully Lennon uses that to our advantage and Jullien seizes the moment once again.