Neil Lennon has confirmed that Ismaila Soro will indeed start for Celtic tonight against Lille in their Europa League dead-rubber.
Celtic are already out of Europe after failing to pick up a win in any of our first five group stage games. Lille, meanwhile, go into tonight’s game knowing that a win would see them confirmed as group winners.
However, despite the fact the Ligue 1 side is packed with quality, Lennon stated in yesterday’s pre-match press conference that he would give Soro minutes. The question on everyone’s lips after that was whether the midfielder would be on from the start or as a late substitute.
And excitingly, Lennon has stated that the former Bnei Yehuda man will make his mark from the start.
As quoted by the Glasgow Times, the Hoops boss said: “It’s been tough for him after what’s happened not long after he arrived. He was back in the Ivory Coast for a family matter and then had to quarantine, so it’s not been ideal for him.
“He’s been back training for a few weeks and has looked good. There’s obviously a lot of competition for him in ther,e with the likes of Brown and McGregor, Rogic and Christie, real stalwarts of the team, and now obviously Turnbull.
“We’d had to be patient with him but will give him a start (vs Lille). We won’t judge him on one game, obviously, but it’s an opportunity for him to get 90 minutes into his legs. He could play a bigger role in the remainder of the season.”
Morale-boosting words for a player who deserves his moment
This is all positive stuff from Soro. It’s great that he’s going to get the 90 minutes tonight instead of just coming on after the hour mark or after 75 minutes. That’s what many of us would’ve been fearing.
However perhaps the most important part of Lennon’s comments is when he says Soro won’t only be judged on tonight and that he could play a bigger role in the second half of the season.
That’s huge for him. Too often this season when Lennon has decided to give Soro or David Turnbull more minutes, they’ve impressed only to see themselves rooted to the bench or out of the matchday squad almost instantly.
Soro should hold Lennon to this. If he impresses against Lille tonight, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t feature against Kilmarnock on Sunday at Celtic Park. It’s not as if Scott Brown and Callum McGregor are blowing everyone’s minds away at the heart of the midfield.
Some rotation may even help the experienced Celtic duo to find their form again. Brown, for example, has been at his best when he’s been rested and coming on later in matches fresher.
So let’s see how Ismaila performs tonight and hope it provides him with a springboard to more game-time domestically.