FORMER Celtic striker Chris Sutton insists Nir Bitton is “too much of a risk” for Wednesday’s crucial confrontation with Astana.
Brendan Rodgers has been forced to field the Israeli midfielder in central defence for the two opening Premiership games of the campaign.
Bitton has stepped in to play alongside Jozo Simunovic for the wins over Hearts and Partick Thistle while Dedryck Boyata and Erik Sviatchenko are sidelined with injury.
But Sutton is far from convinced about the player’s defensive qualities and pointed to his ordering-off in the shock 2-1 Europa League home defeat from Norway’s Molde in November 2015.
Bitton was moved into central defence that evening by ex-boss Ronny Deila, but it backfired when he was given a straight red card in the 77th minute to cap an embarrassing night for the Hoops.
Sutton, Martin O’Neill’s first buy for the club when he paid Chelsea £6million in the summer of 2000, said: “Nir Bitton is a really good footballer.
“But he hasn’t played many games in his career at centre-half and we saw him sent off in the Europa League when he dropped in there.
“We have seen intsances in these games that suggest he is a big risk. He is a worry for me against Astana.
“Yes, he is comfortable on the ball, but he is not a natural defender.
“I just wonder if Brendan Rodgers is now thinking of Kristoffer Ajer.”
Bitton was involved in a moment of controversy in stoppage time of the champions’ 1-0 win over Partick Thistle on Friday night.
After a moment of hesitancy right in front of goalkeeper Craig Gordon, he made contact with Jags striker Miles Storey who went down in a heap.
The home players’ claims for a spot-kick were waved away by referee Andrew Dallas.
However, Sutton admitted: “It should have been a penalty after Celtic had been the dominant team all night.
“In a Champions League play-off game, with so much at stake, take it from me, he isn’t the man.”