Some Celtic fans may be wondering whether Neil Lennon is about to make a surprise inclusion against Rennes on Thursday – and start Olivier Ntcham.
The 23-year-old, returning to his homeland France, didn’t play any part in the narrow weekend victory over Hamilton Accies. Ntcham also didn’t feature in our most recent European match – the 4-1 success against AIK. Those facts would surely hint that he would be less likely to start in Brittany, however you just feel he may be suited to the match.
Ntcham has a point to prove against Rennes
Despite being a former France under-21 international, Ntcham hasn’t really returned to the country since departing the Le Havre youth academy for Manchester City back in 2012.
However, despite that, he is still pretty highly thought of in the country. He was widely linked with a move to Marseille over the course of the summer so it’s fair to say that Ntcham would be keen to impress against Rennes – even if more so for his own good.
His ability to keep and carry the ball could be invaluable in a match when Celtic must be compact but also spring counter-attacks when they can. Ntcham’s role in the Jonny Hayes’ Ibrox clincher was terrific, and showed exactly what he can do in that kind of situation.
Who loses their place though?
The difficult question for Lennon to ponder, if putting Ntcham in, is who’s coming out? The midfield trio of Scott Brown, Callum McGregor and Ryan Christie have been three of Celtic’s most prominent players so far this season. One is the captain, another is the engine and the other is perhaps the best creative force in the team – so it’s tough to see any of them left out.
However, some fans may feel that Ntcham could be better suited to the match than McGregor. The 26-year-old has looked a little off his top level in recent weeks. It’s no wonder given the amount of football that he’s played for both his club and country. Yet, he was slack at the weekend and gifted the ball to the opposition on a few occasions.
Ntcham would likely offer us more security on that front. And with the game being in France, on a big stage, you would fancy him to be fired up for the occasion.