Celtic shouldn't rush back Jullien as Bitton is a capable replacement

By John Reid

September 27, 2020

Celtic have been without the £7m signing from Toulouse Christopher Jullien for the last few games. The Hoops centre-back is injured and has missed the matches against Livingston and Riga.

Now, Celtic have some big games on the horizon. Most notably, the Europa League play-off against Sarajevo on Thursday evening. No doubt Neil Lennon would love to have Jullien available for the game, after all, he is the manager who bought the player, and he has been a regular for the Hoops since then.

However, if Jullien is still not 100% fit, there is no need to rush him back into the side. It is better to wait until he has recovered from his injury. Celtic also have a more than capable replacement for Jullien – Nir Bitton.

Bitton replaced Hatem Abd Elhamed, who had taken Jullien’s place in the line-up against Livingston, against Riga.

Measure of composure in recent win

Bitton strolled through the tie in Latvia. He was the measure of composure as Celtic won 1-0. He was Celtic’s best defender on the night, which is no mean feat when you consider that technically he is a defensive midfielder.

Celtic centre-back Nir Bitton (Photo by Paul Ursachi/MB Media/Getty Images)

However, when Bitton has featured under Neil Lennon in his second spell as Hoops boss, he has primarily played as a centre-back.

If Bitton has to play at centre-back against Sarajevo Neil Lennon should have no concerns about that. He has played at centre-back for Celtic in some big games before.

Played at centre-back against Sarajevo last season

Indeed, he played at centre-back in the 3-1 win over Sarajevo last season. He has also played Champions League play-off ties at centre-back, he played in both legs of the 84 aggregate win over Astana in 2017.

Nir Bitton celebrates a goal against Sarajevo last season (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

However, the fact that he played in an away win against this week’s opponents only a year ago may influence  Lennon to keep Bitton in the team.

It can also give Jullien more time to recover. Then when both players are fit and available, Neil Lennon will have a selection dilemma he will be delighted to have.

In other news, some Celtic fans want David Turnbull to start against Hibernian.