Why Celtic need Kristoffer Ajer to return for Sunday

By Euan Davidson

April 28, 2021

It might be an absolute cast iron dead-rubber for Celtic on Sunday, but we still need Kristoffer Ajer.

In fact, scratch that: there’s a lot to play for this weekend, actually. We face Rangers for the final time this season, looking to put an end to comparisons between their side and the Invincible team of 16-17. You’d have thought being knocked out of both cups would put the talk to a grinding halt, but it seems not.

Ajer has been one of the few players you could point to this season and suggest they’ve been any good. As harsh as that sounds, individual and collective performances haven’t been good enough. A number of players have had their valuations slide over 20-21, but Ajer isn’t one of those. He’s a player that Celtic fans want to keep a hold of.

The £12m-rated defender [Herald], however, missed the last game against Aberdeen. In a turgid 1-1 draw, Ajer had to miss out due to a shoulder injury [Glasgow Times]. There hasn’t been any training coverage from the club this week, but you’d have thought the Norwegian might’ve benefitted from a week and a half off.

The alternative is Bitton and Welsh. Welsh, fine, but Nir Bitton’s mis-use as a centre-back continues to confound. Signed as a defensive midfielder, and used as a defensive midfielder, Bitton doesn’t have the pace to keep up with strikers. His proficiency defending set-pieces isn’t ideal, either. Yet, so often, he’s used in that role.

We’ve seen already this season that, as good as he can be, his lack of pace can be game-changing [Sky Sports].

Celtic defenders Kris Ajer and Stephen Welsh / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Kristoffer Ajer has proved himself in trying circumstances for Celtic

Again, it’s not been a season to remember.

But Kristoffer Ajer, at just 23, has played the second highest number of minutes this season [WhoScored?]. His 1.3 tackles, 1.4 interceptions and 3.4 clearances have made him a first-pick for both Neil Lennon and John Kennedy.

With pride on the line this weekend, Ajer can argue he’s been unlucky in a number of his duels against the Gers this season. Fine; the last Glasgow Derby was a disaster, but in the 1-1 draw, he was far more impressive. Capable of keeping Morelos quiet (the majority of the time), we’re perhaps over-reliant on the Norway international by this point.

He needs to play on Sunday. If he doesn’t, we could be in for another tough afternoon.

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