Jozo Simunovic’s place in Celtic’s strongest XI is suddenly in real danger after Sunday.
So much has been spoken about the performance of Christopher Jullien at Ibrox. The towering Frenchman bossed Jermain Defoe and Alfredo Morelos around at Ibrox. The 2-0 success on Sunday was largely down to how he settled into the game.
And, in doing so, his reputation amongst the Celtic support has soared massively. Arriving in the summer from Toulouse at the price of £7million (Scottish Sun), it was a performance he needed.
However, moving forward, what does that do for the injured Simunovic? It’s probably fair to say that the centre-back would’ve featured at Ibrox had he been fit. After all, Neil Lennon had trusted him in all eight of Celtic’s Champions League qualifiers. He also featured at home to AIK before picking up a knock.
Only a red card from pre-season led to him missing the opening two Premiership matches against St Johnstone and Motherwell respectively. And, as can so often be the case, by the time he returns, he could find himself back down to number three in the pecking order.
Jozo Simunovic’s place at Celtic is now surely as third-choice?
Nir Bitton was another impressive performer at Ibrox. However, even so, when Simunovic is fit he’ll likely always be ahead of the Israeli. But when Kristoffer Ajer returns? That’s a different kettle of fish.
As of this current moment, you have to imagine the number one partnership for us is Ajer and Jullien. That’s the duo that have shown more quality than any of their rivals. And Jullien’s performance at Ibrox as well as in Stockholm against AIK proved that.
Simunovic now just about finds himself in the same position as last season. With Dedryck Boyata and Ajer being the first-choice partnership, Jozo found himself waiting for opportunities more often than not. He did get him – after all he did manage to secure a total of 30 appearances.
But there’s no denying things have suddenly gotten a lot tougher for Simunovic. When he’s fit, he won’t be rushed back, or at the very least he shouldn’t be.
As is always the case, he’ll get his chances to impress. Over the course of a season, the third-choice centre-back always features frequently. But is he now a part of our strongest back-line? The answer quite simply has to be no.
Until Jullien and Ajer prove they can’t work alongside each other, Jozo may have to get used to being back-up once again. And having that kind of quality in reserve should bode well for the Hoops as the season goes on.