Celtic manager Neil Lennon has revealed an exciting boost ahead of tomorrow, as he revealed that both Hatem Elhamed and Nir Bitton will return to training on Monday.
Celtic managed to overcome Clyde 3-0 in the Scottish Cup last-16 earlier this afternoon. Lennon made six changes from the team that beat Motherwell 4-0 at Fir Park on Wednesday night too. Yet, in both matches, both Elhamed and Nir Bitton weren’t anywhere to be seen.
The former has been out since Celtic’s stunning 2-1 win in Lazio, meaning he hasn’t played since early November. Bitton, meanwhile, hasn’t been seen since our 2-1 Scottish Cup success at Firhill last month.
However, speaking after the Clyde game on Premier Sports’ coverage of the match (Premier Sports 1, 09/02, 14:50), Lennon confirmed that both men will return to training tomorrow:
“You just have to take each game as it comes and win each game as it comes as best you can.
“We’ve got a midweek game then another one next weekend so they’re coming thick and fast, but we’re getting a few back now. We’ve got Bitton and Elhamed, they’ll start training tomorrow, and then we just wait and see how long (Jeremie) Frimpong’s going to be.”
Training return shouldn’t mark swift return to action
If you’re going to pick, then Bitton should return to action substantially earlier than Elhamed. After all, the former hasn’t missed that much action since being out.
In total, Bitton has missed six games. It’s not great but it’s hardly disastrous either. Elhamed, on the other hand, has three times that with 18. That’s quite the period sidelined, and it could take another couple of weeks to get him up to speed as it has been with the likes of Tom Rogic and Mohamed Elyounoussi.
For some in the squad, Lennon’s squad rotation policy has meant that there will be concerns for their positions. For example, Moritz Bauer is at his best as a right-back in a back-four. However, when Lennon goes with three at the back, there isn’t much justification for his inclusion.
That isn’t something that Bitton or Elhamed will have to worry about. For the former, he can play anywhere across the centre-back positions or in the centre of midfield if necessary.
Elhamed, meanwhile, is another who can play at centre-back extremely efficiently. He can also likely be entrusted with being used as a wing-back. Given his power and clever footwork, he could be an interesting option there.
With games still coming from all angles, both men’s return to training is a welcome boost. Hopefully, it signals a return to top form for both.