KRISTOFFER AJER IN, Shane Duffy OUT – that will almost certainly be Neil Lennon’s team news for the High Noon showdown with Motherwell at Fir Park today.

The Norwegian central defender is poised to return after recovering from the hamstring problem that saw him miss last week’s 2-0 Scottish Cup semi-final win over Aberdeen and the catastrophic 4-1 Europa League Group H loss against Sparta Prague at Parkhead.

Republic of Ireland international Duffy struggled badly against the Czech Republic outfit and was part of a defence that collapsed in a flop that will surely see the end of any hopes of the club remaining in Europe after the turn of the year.

Lennon admitted that he has a “duty of care” to the on-loan Brighton centre-back who looks as though his confidence has been obliterated following a sequence of less-than-convincing displays in recent weeks.

The Hoops boss, speaking to Scotland on Sunday, said: “Thursday was too soon for Kristoffer, but he is now back in contention.

“We are not keeping as many clean sheets as I would like. Defensively, we have to do better at set-plays and generally be better as a unit.

“We were a little bit individualistic on Thursday and we didn’t stay connected and that was half the problem. There is a lot of work still to be done with the team in terms of where we want to get to.”

Speaking about the situation regarding Duffy, Lennon said: “I will manage it the best way I see possible. Sometimes it’s not for public consumption. We have a duty of care to the player, whether he is struggling with confidence or not.

“That’s the same with every player. He seems to be under the spotlight quite a bit. That’s the nature of the game up here sometimes, you’ve got to show a bit of personality and character and come through it. I’m sure he will.”

The Hoops gaffer also confirmed Christopher Jullien has returned from a period of intensive treatment on a back complaint with a specialist in Germany. The £7million Frenchman has not featured for two months.

Lennon, though, the international break will offer him the time required for the towering 27-year-old centre-half to get up to speed.

He added: “Christopher was back in for the first time on Saturdaym, but he is feeling better and he will now have a couple of weeks of rehab and physical work.”

* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report from Motherwell v Celtic this afternoon – only in your champion CQN.

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