Moritz Bauer can't afford to take Cluj-Celtic game lightly
CFR Cluj vs Celtic is as dead-rubber a European match as we’re ever going to get, but it most certainly isn’t for Moritz Bauer.
With Jeremie Frimpong ineligible and Hatem Abd Elhamed sidelined, only Bauer is available to play at right-back. Neil Lennon has confirmed that he’ll feature, and considering he’s the only natural right-back available, many would’ve predicted it regardless (Twitter).
That means that, both Cluj away and Rennes at home will have seen Celtic out of options outside of Bauer. At this stage, that seems like the only way he’ll get a game too.
There were big question marks over what Lenny would do on Sunday in the Betfred Cup final. Would he stick with the youthful Frimpong or go with the experienced and seemingly reliable enough Bauer? He chose the latter, leaving Bauer in no doubt that he’s third-choice in a position he would’ve hoped to have been first in when he arrived back in August.
Overall, Bauer has only played eight times and started on six of those occasions (Transfermarkt). Whilst Frimpong has been exciting, the sad state is that Bauer hadn’t done enough against Rennes in the last Europa League match to build a backing for his Hampden inclusion. He then followed it up with another quiet display against Hamilton at Parkhead.
Elhamed’s injury hasn’t provided a spark in Bauer
Elhamed’s injury seemed like the perfect time for him to step up, but he’s yet to do so. Supporters still view him as nothing more than back-up. Therefore, the only way he can change that is a real eye-catching performance in Cluj.
If Bauer can get up and down the right and make things happen, he’ll have the attention of supporters. His problem at the moment is that he hasn’t been spectacular enough for people to get behind him. The standards set by the two right-backs ahead of him have left him isolated behind them.
Elhamed, going by his agent’s original six-week timeframe (Daily Record), should be back in just over a couple of weeks. He’s already done almost four weeks of rehab. So Bauer’s opportunities could become non-existent when the Israeli returns to action.
December was always going to be Bauer’s big month to impress. Unfortunately for him, his games will be running out if he fails to inspire tomorrow. You would expect Frimpong to play against Hibernian, Hearts, Aberdeen, and Rangers respectively. If Elhamed is back before the end of the month, he may be able to help with the workload.
But, at the end of the day, there won’t be many games you would look at and think Bauer would be a cert to start.
That’s what makes the Cluj game on Thursday massive for the Austrian. It could be one of his last chances to make an impression. Hopefully, he leaves us all impressed come full-time in Romania. There may not be qualification or group spots to play for, but there is potentially a future on the line for Bauer.