Celtic’s Jozo Simunovic has been thrown into the side recently, and a big date with destiny awaits him.
The Bosnia internationalist has been in and out of the team in recent months. This is due to both the form of Dedryck Boyata and the emergence of Filip Benkovic on-loan from Leicester City.
Everyone agrees that the pair make up Celtic’s best central-defensive partnership. Brendan Rodgers also acknowledges that having continuously played the pair together since Benkovic arrived.
Fortunately for Simunovic, he’s been given a huge break. Boyata’s injury picked up against Aberdeen has him ruled out for the short-term. That short-term includes Thursday’s massive Europa League clash with Red Bull Salzburg at Parkhead.
With Kristoffer Ajer also sidelined, the onus is going to be on Simunovic to partner young Benkovic. Despite Benkovic being the more reliable centre-back, Simunovic is the older and more experienced of the pair.
Red Bull will arrive at Celtic Park with genuine threats in their squad. Fredrik Gulbrandson has bagged three goals in the group stages alone. That’s nothing on Munas Dabbur and Takumi Minamino, however, who both have five each to their names respectively. Fortunately, Dabbur’s stats recently haven’t been as impressive.
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Many not keen on Simunovic
Many Celtic supporters still aren’t overly keen on Simunovic, however. His display against Kilmarnock at the weekend saw several loose passes go astray. Meanwhile, Benkovic was assisting goals number one and two by stepping out of the defence.
Celtic’s Bosnian, who they signed for £3million back in 2015, has only appeared on 11 occasions this season. He’s not favoured at all compared to Celtic’s other first-team defenders outside of Jack Hendry.
Thursday night is going to give him a huge chance at redemption, however. If he can silence three top attackers along with his Croatian partner – he’ll be a hero again.
Those loose passes and first-team struggles will be forgotten about if he can lead Celtic to the last 32 of the Europa League.
He has the capabilities too. On plenty of occasions when he’s composed, Simunovic can seriously look the part. He has to cut out the sloppy errors, however, and be calm under pressure.
A poor game and it must surely be over for him in terms of first-team chances. A positive display? He may very well have a future here yet.