Why Celtic are about to enjoy an even bigger Matt O'Riley impact

By John McGinley

December 11, 2022

Matt O’Riley has shown his versatility in a Celtic shirt this season, filling in superbly for captain Callum McGregor over the last two months at the base of the Bhoys midfield.

However, I’m relishing his return to a more attacking role now that McGregor is again fit and involved in first-team affairs.

The captain made his return to Celtic action in a friendly match against Rennes in Portugal yesterday, starting the match and getting a healthy 78 minutes under his belt.

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The long-serving star is again a strong contender for a starting berth in next weekend’s Scottish Premiership return against Aberdeen. That leaves Ange Postecoglou with the option to push O’Riley into a more advanced role, where he has looked so dangerous and accomplished throughout 2022.

The Danish U21 international was a creative force in the early stages of the season, registering five assists in his first six Premiership matches.

However, it was necessary for him to drop into a more defensive-minded midfield role following McGregor’s injury in October with his movement and deep-lying vision becoming key to a sustained period of league form that has pushed the Bhoys nine points clear at the top of the table.

Postecoglou has been glowing with his praise for the midfielder, alongside Reo Hatate, for stepping in to ensure there was no big drop-off in midfield performances.

The shackles are set to come off again and our opponents should be worried. At his best, O’Riley is an incisive and classy talent in attacking areas, having the ability to both play a defence-splitting past and offer a goal threat of his own.

The triple threat of McGregor, Hatate and O’Riley is going to be potent. It’s easily Celtic’s most effective midfield triangle and it could push the Bhoys to get back to that opening burst of league action that resulted in massive wins.

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Before the Champions League began, Celtic scored a ridiculous 25 goals and conceded just one in the opening six matches, culminating in a 4-0 thrashing of Rangers. O’Riley was outstanding that day, setting up goals for Jota and Liel Abada.

With no European distractions, a fresh, fit squad and a lighter schedule, there’s no reason why we can’t get back to those kinds of performances again. O’Riley will be a massive part of it, returning to his most effective position.

In other news, Report: Celtic send out letters to clubs notifying interest in new generation of talent.