Celtic’s Croatian back-up Jozo Simunovic thankfully wasn’t on the injured list yesterday that Neil Lennon provided at his pre-match press conference.
Celtic get set to face Copenhagen in Denmark tonight, and the Hoops already have several absentees to take into account.
Lennon stated that Leigh Griffiths, Greg Taylor, and Hatem Abd Elhamed had all been left behind (Celtic TV). Griffiths picked up a knock in training whilst Taylor did likewise at Aberdeen on Sunday. Elhamed, meanwhile, hasn’t played since November and is still recovering.
But it looked for a period as though Simunovic was potentially going to be sidelined too. Lennon stated in the Daily Record last weekend that he was “hoping” his centre-back would be fine for tonight’s game. He even left him out of Aberdeen because he struggles to play three games-per-week too.
However, thankfully, it looks as though he’ll be fit to face the Danes tonight if selected. Granted, Griffiths’ injury could see Simunovic take a place on the bench.
Who does Simunovic come in for?
With Griffiths out, it seems most likely that Celtic will go with a 4-2-3-1 tonight. That’s due to the fact that there are no proven alternatives who can come in and do a job alongside Odsonne Edouard. Both Patryk Klimala and Vakoun Bayo remain unproven.
But in a 4-2-3-1 system, where does that leave Jozo? After all, the centre-back partnership is surely going to be Kristoffer Ajer and Christopher Jullien. Down the wing-back areas, you’re likely to see Jeremie Frimpong and Jonny Hayes too.
There’s an argument to say that, because Frimpong is just back and that Ajer has previous at right-back, he could slot out on the right and open up a space for Simunovic to partner Jullien. But in a game as big as this, that seems a stretch.
Had Griffiths been fit, a 3-5-2 with Ajer, Jullien, and Simunovic could’ve been feasible. After all, why would Lennon rest the Croat against Aberdeen if he didn’t have any intention of playing him in Denmark?
Considering Copenhagen’s main threat seems to be cross-balls too, it would be ideal to have three towering centre-backs in the box to deal with them.
However, just having Simunovic available is a nice boost for tonight. With Nir Bitton also back, Celtic are starting to look well-stocked in central defence for now.