Jozo Simunovic’s swift return from injury provides Celtic with some timely cover at the back.
The Bosnian failed to make the squad against Dundee two weeks ago. This left Neil Lennon trying to shoehorn Mikael Lustig into centre-back. The Swede did struggle at times, but Celtic got the job done in the end with a 1-0 success.
After failing to win a call-up with the Bosnian side, Simunovic had the week to recover. Fortunately for Celtic, he seems to have done so. Simunovic played in the bounce game against Morton last Friday. It would appear that he is ready for a return to action, and in such a timely manner too.
Dedryck Boyata is a big doubt for the Rangers clash on Sunday. The Belgian dropped out of his national squad after picking up a knock. Lennon has yet to provide the supporters with an update on his health.
That means that Kristoffer Ajer and Filip Benkovic look like the number one centre-back choice.
What makes Simunovic’s return so timely, then, is the lack of cover we have for Ajer and Benkovic. Should Simunovic miss the clash, we effectively have no reliable centre-back cover.
No chance for Jack Hendry?
There is, of course, Jack Hendry. But Lennon’s refusal to play him over a right-back in Lustig two weeks ago should tell you all you need to know. He’s highly unlikely to feature in any capacity on Sunday.
So Simunovic’s return in the Morton bounce game couldn’t have come at a better time. The worst case scenario is that Boyata misses out and we only have cover for one centre-back position. But that shouldn’t matter.
Simunovic has had to get used to a bit-part role this season for the Hoops. He’s made 21 appearances for Brendan Rodgers this season, but hasn’t actually featured yet under Lennon. If it comes to it, and either Ajer or Benkovic pick up an injury, that stat looks set to change.
It provides fans with some peace of mind over the defence. On his day, Simunovic is reliable enough. But now we simply wait and see what the script is with Boyata, and at least we won’t be doing it in fear.