COMMENT By Will Butcher
Celtic should find the answer to solving their lack of depth at centre-back closer to home than they think, saving them from having to delve into the transfer window once again.
Brendan Rodgers watched from the sidelines in Norway at the Lerkendal Stadion as Celtic qualified for the group stages of the Champions League with a 1-0 win away from home.
James Forrest struck in the second half from a tight angle to score the only goal over the two ties, which saw the Hoops finally make a breakthrough against a side looking to frustrate Celtic.
A huge turning point in the match was the introduction of Israel international Nir Bitton, who Rodgers decided to bring off the bench to replace injured Erik Sviatchenko in the first half.
Denmark international Sviatchenko suffered a knee injury and instead of bringing Cristian Gamboa on and pushing Mikael Lustig into centre-back, Bitton was brought on as a like-for-like replacement.
The 25-year-old starred at centre-back alongside Jozo Simunovic, keeping the Norwegian giants out at the back as Forrest provided Celtic with the all-important winner.
The 6ft 5in midfielder won the majority of his aerial duels while winning a number of 50-50 duels, as well as showing composure when on the ball and keeping Nicklas Bendtner under control.
Last season, Bitton made just 26 Scottish Premiership appearances, with 10 of those being substitute appearances as Callum McGregor and Stuart Armstrong rose above him in the pecking order.
With his future at Celtic now in doubt after making only his first appearance this season in what was Celtic’s fourth competitive outing of the season, Bitton could reignite his career in Glasgow.
Rodgers needs cover at defence with Dedryck Boyata and Sviatchenko injured, while Kristoffer Ajer still has plenty to learn. That leaves just Jozo Simunovic.
Converting Bitton into a centre-back could see the Celtic number five reignite what is a stuttering career under Rodgers, helping the Hoops towards a second successive treble.
In other Celtic news, the Hoops should sign this 55-time international who is reportedly ready to quit.