Celtic’s closed doors game against Morton a couple of days ago provided Filip Benkovic with more game-time.
In all honesty, it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Hoops too.
Dedryck Boyata has just dropped out of the Belgium international squad. Therefore, naturally, that makes him a doubt for the Rangers clash next Sunday. The sooner Celtic find out what’s happening with him the better, but it’s also no disaster if he misses out.
That’s because Benkovic followed up his appearance at Dens Park with a 17-minute cameo against Morton in that bounce game. The Croat isn’t long back from an injury himself, but his performance at Dens Park wouldn’t have told you that.
He was composed on the ball and didn’t show any signs of fatigue or sloppiness. In fact, it was only Mikael Lustig alongside him that was ropey at centre-back. Benkovic, on the other hand, once again looked the real deal.
A few weeks ago when he was out injured, we would’ve been against Benkovic making a rushed return. But he’s not showing the kind of rustiness you would generally expect from a six-week absence.
Benching Benko would be ideal, but we might not have that luxury
Ideally, Benkovic would be on the bench on Sunday in any case. Boyata remains the club’s number one centre-back. Alongside Kristoffer Ajer, they’ve formed a bond and partnership that has been breached just twice domestically since the winter break.
But if Boyata were to miss out, playing Benkovic isn’t the disaster it could’ve been. He’s looking fit, and will have been building up his strength in the two weeks between the Dundee and Rangers matches respectively.
The only concern is whether he can go for 90 minutes yet. Neil Lennon won’t want to use unnecessary substitutions on centre-backs. Considering Benkovic hasn’t played anywhere near a full-game since returning just yet, that’s the over-riding concern.
But he doesn’t look like he has many mistakes in him at the moment. For the upcoming fixture with Rangers, we can’t risk playing the likes of Lustig at centre-back again.
Personally, I would much rather we just gave the role to Benkovic over the likes of Jack Hendry, should Boyata be out. Jozo Simunovic did return in the bounce-game too, so he could also be an option.
It seems the safe option to play Benkovic, however. Whilst Boyata hasn’t been anywhere near ruled out as of yet, Celtic have to be preparing for it.