Nir Bitton’s Celtic return finally looks like it could be on the cards after the recent international break.
For much of it, we’ve been spending it worried about the state of Bitton’s Israel teammate Hatem Abd Elhamed. Andreas Herzog, the Israeli manager, stated that Elhamed had been sick and struggling to eat with the squad (Daily Record). Those fears were put to rest after he played 90 minutes against Latvia last night.
But it almost made us forget about another big injury concern in Bitton.
The Celtic utility man hasn’t played since coming off in the 2-0 win at Ibrox with a thigh injury. However, he did return to the bench against Livingston without making a sub appearance nearly two weeks ago.
Question marks could’ve been raised heading into the internationals over whether Bitton would’ve been fit to play. And it most certainly turns out that he was.
Nir played both games against Austria and Latvia respectively. Better than that, he played 90 minutes in both games too. Any fears regarding whether he would be feeling any lingering effects of his thigh knock have been washed away.
So does Bitton just come straight back in this Saturday?
There is a small issue for Bitton in that Neil Lennon has just found his best centre-back partnership. Kristoffer Ajer and Christopher Jullien are now finally getting the chance to play together. It’s yet to seriously bring out the best in Ajer, but it remains a promising duo for Celtic.
Bitton has proved he can do a job in that position on countless occasions. He was actually having a stormer at Ibrox before having to come off too. He’s made 11 appearances this term and they’ve all come at centre-back.
But chopping and changing at the back isn’t something that Lenny likes to do. With a settled Jullien/Ajer partnership in there, there doesn’t seem to be much reason to change it.
Then again, Lenny has also been a master in finding ways to push Bitton into the side. Whether he decides to find a way to do it this time, however, is questionable.
It’s most likely that Bitton goes back to being a Celtic utility player. He’ll likely be solid back-up for whenever Ajer or Jullien pick up a knock or suspension.
And for Celtic that’s a huge plus. With Jozo Simunovic still sidelined, we aren’t blessed with centre-back talent in reserve. Bitton proving himself to be match-fit during this international cycle is one of the biggest positives of the break for us.