Ronny Deila will see his international players begin a staggered return to Lennoxtown today as he prepares for two away games: in Motherwell and Molde. If Leigh Griffiths’ modest calf strain is the only injury the manager will have to worry about, he’ll be delighted.
The injury which occupies most fans is the sprained ankle which has kept Jozo Simunovic from playing since making his debut a month ago. Celtic’s greatest need right now is consistency of selection in defence. We need to allow a first choice central defensive pairing to become established, and that’s almost certainly going to involve Jozo, our most expensive signing 8 years.
Jozo’s partner is likely to be Dedryck Boyata. Dedryck has played 18 games this season. His career total prior to arriving at Celtic was 32 games, a low tally for a player who turns 25 next month.
The early season form Dedryck demonstrated was patchy, but with only 32 games stretching over five years, there’s lots about the game the player is still picking up, not least of all playing meaningful games in front of thousands of fans. He was caught-out by a fast bounce at Hamilton but since representing Belgium in a European Championship qualifier against Bosnia last month I think there’s been a perceptible improvement.
For some years now we’ve talked about how many games a player needs to have played for your scouts to decide he’s a genuine talent, but before the wealthy English step in. Dedryck, and Jozo, are still a dozen games short of the mark Wanyama, Hooper and van Dijk were when they became Celtic players. Which means the next few months should tell us lots.
Don’t bet against them establishing a very strong partnership.