The return of cherished players from injury is often anticlimactic as match sharpness takes time to achieve. Not so with Reo Hatate on Saturday. Apart from brief cameos against Ross County and Aberdeen, Reo had not seen competitive action since last season’s Scottish Cup Final.
We have to temper expectations for tomorrow in Rotterdam, our midfield fulcrum will not be fit for 90 minutes, but he surely showed Brendan Rodgers enough of what he was missing to play an important role for Celtic. Without him, we look like a tribute act.
There was palpable concern at halftime against Dundee that we were watching a rerun of our previous home game, a no-scoring stalemate against St Johnstone. Celtic were blunt and an ineffective Dundee managed to create the best chance of the opening period. Taking an early lead allowed Brendan space to give debuts to Luis Palma and Paulo Bernardo. Neither had enough time to shake the rafters of Celtic Park, but it was great to see the squad grow after so many injuries.
The first debutant of the day was Nat Phillips, who partnered Liam Scales for the first half, before being replaced by Gustaf Lagerbielke at the break. It was Nat’s first topflight appearance of 2023. Despite being the oldest of our fit central defenders, it would be asking a lot to throw him into the Champions League so soon.