Celtic veteran Nir Bitton and his case for starting spot against Bodo/Glimt
We’re big fans of Celtic midfielder Nir Bitton.
The word “midfielder” is absolutely key, here. Nir Bitton has had some difficult moments, shunted in out of position when we’ve been short of defenders, often in key matches at the start of the season. The Israel international started being used as such by Brendan Rodgers, then Neil Lennon. Ange Postecoglou tried him out there against FC Midtjylland, it didn’t work.
Why? Because Bitton is a defensive midfielder. Capable of controlling the tempo, with excellent passing range and maturity, the Celtic veteran is able to run games.
When he came on against Dundee at the weekend, with Celtic chasing a winner, he was excellent. Every single one of his passes hit the mark, he recovered the ball 3 times, and was generally a calming presence in a frantic game [Fotmob].
Now, this isn’t to say that Callum McGregor had a bad game. The primary number 6 under Ange Postecoglou, McGregor has had a fantastic campaign, and embraced the captaincy role with relentless zeal. He’s a stand-out, a regular presence and a constant contributor. But there’s an argument to suggest that Bitton might be the best option in the heart of the midfield tonight.
Why? Well, last time round against Bodo/Glimt, we were overran in midfield. With Ange opting against a start for Reo Hatate, Rogic and O’Riley were entrusted to play box-to-box, creating as much as winning the ball and recycling it in key areas. It didn’t really work.
Bitton has become a reliable part in the Ange Postecoglou machine. His ability to calm things down, win the ball in the middle and seek out accurate passes could nullify Bodo/Glimt.
Celtic veteran Bitton could be the calming presence Bhoys need in Bodo
Now, talking about a defensive midfielder in a game where we need to score 3 goals might seem counter-productive. As much as Celtic will need to go at Bodo/Glimt tonight, though, we know how dangerous the Norwegians can be on the break.
Simply put, we can’t afford to concede tonight. Unless, that is, we’re able to convert opportunities at a far higher rate than we did last week. Having Bitton in there to cut off the Bodo/Glimt supply in the middle of the park, and allowing Callum McGregor to rove forward, could be a really sensible idea here.
It’s not as if it’s a pragmatic shout, either. Sure, Bitton can be used in a defensive manner, a player who can slow a game right down and see out a result. Saying that, though, it’s not as if that’s all he can do.
Tactically, it’s going to be fascinating to see how Ange sets his team up tonight. There’ll be a few things we can take as read: it’ll be attacking, and a 4-3-3. The personnel, though; well we’ve seen Ange throw a few curveballs before now.
Orthodoxy would suggest that McGregor will get the nod at the 6 position. And that’d be absolutely fine.
For a game like this, though, it could be prudent for Celtic boss Postecoglou to include Bitton. He’s certainly made a case for a start, but either way we’re likely to see him put his mark on tonight’s proceedings.