With today’s game against Rangers postponed, it solves one particular injury concern heading into the game – Olivier Ntcham’s fitness.

The Frenchman may have been back training with the first-team squad earlier this week, but he hadn’t played since mid-February’s 2-1 win at Pittodrie against Aberdeen.

There was absolutely no guarantee that he was going to be up to speed for today’s game. A couple of training sessions may have helped him get back into the swing of things, but to be thrown into the Glasgow derby in Govan would’ve been a risk.


Celtic's Olivier Ntcham

Celtic’s Olivier Ntcham (Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)

With Scottish football entering a lockdown phase, it gives Ntcham plenty of time to get on the same wavelength as the rest of his team-mates.

That is one particular silver lining that comes out of the recent shutdown. After all, we can’t forget how influential Ntcham has been in 2020.

The former Manchester City man has played a key role alongside Scott Brown and Callum McGregor as part of a midfield three. He played in every single one of our first seven league games since the turn of the year, and started all of them too. He was a key component as to why Celtic controlled all of the matches he started in (Transfermarkt).

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Ntcham’s absence didn’t help us

When we lost him, things started to take a slight turn in terms of performance levels. We went behind to Kilmarnock at Celtic Park before failing to dominate a 2-2 draw at Livingston. We were also poor for long spells in the Scottish Cup quarter-final tie at McDiarmid Park.

Things did take an upward turn in the 5-0 rout of St Mirren, but when up against tougher tests, having Ntcham’s ability and power in the midfield is huge for us.

Ntcham scoring against Rangers

Ntcham scoring against Rangers (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Granted, there’s no set date for when this derby match at Ibrox will take place. It may not happen whatsoever for all we know. But we have to assume that it will at some stage, and having Ntcham free of injury for a more prolonged period of time could help him ahead of it.

If you cast your mind back to when Brown went off injured in Copenhagen, he didn’t look up to speed when he returned a week later. Whether it was Neil’s desire to throw Scott in a little early, or whether it was just a poor performance will forever be unknown to us. However, Ntcham could easily have been in the same boat with the intensity of the Glasgow derby.

He now gets some time to rest up and prepare for when we do eventually visit there. Who knows how long it could be, but at least we know he shouldn’t be carrying a knock when it comes around.

Would you have had any fears over Ntcham being suddenly thrown in today? Does the time off give him a chance to get up to speed? Or will it prove to be detrimental to his match-fitness more than anything? Let us know in the comments.

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