Noel Whelan has suggested Shane Duffy would have been dropped from the Celtic starting XI sooner had Christopher Jullien been fit and available.

The former Aberdeen and Leeds striker, speaking exclusively to Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge, has suggested the impending return of the 27-year-old should motivate the Brighton loanee to get back to his best form after a series of shaky displays.

The French centre-back took to his personal Twitter account to confirm he has completed the first stage of his rehab and is now working on building up his fitness ahead of a return to action.

Celtic’s defence has come under fire during Jullien’s absence, with Duffy dropped to the bench against Motherwell in the Hoops’ last domestic game.

However, Whelan has suggested the Republic of Ireland ace may have been axed sooner had Jullien been available and that the Frenchman’s return could help Duffy get back to his best.

Asked if Jullien’s return would give Duffy the kick up the backside he needed, Whelan told Football Insider: Yeah, exactly, that’s what having a lot of players in certain positions, and good players certain positions does, it keeps you on your toes.

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“If he was fit enough, I’m sure Shane Duffy would have been out of the side but unfortunately they didn’t have these players to be able to put in that position.

“Knowing that he’s coming back might give Shane Duffy that motivation to brush up and get better in that position because he should really be, after playing at the top level in England, their standout defender week in, week out.

“At the minute we’re seeing that inconsistency in his performances, those little mistakes creeping in. He needs to get back to that form when he first signed for Celtic. They need that sort of player, that’s why they signed him.”

Duffy has played in every game since joining Celtic from Brighton, with the win over Motherwell the first time he was not named among the starting XI.

In other Celtic news, Alex McLeish has urged a barely-seen but technically brilliant player to get an extended run in the side.