Matt O’Riley is burnt out, but can Celtic afford to rest him?

Matt O’Riley has been Celtic’s key player this season, without a shadow of a doubt. Many expected the Dane to be one of the most improved players under Brendan Rodgers given the similarities in O’Riley’s game and profile to other midfielders who have succeeded under the former Leicester City boss.

There has often been points where O’Riley has been putting the team on his back, scoring last minute winners to secure the three points in the cinch Premiership as well as stepping up in the Champions League, something that caught the attention of the Danish national team as well as potential suitors across the continent, with Atletico Madrid seeing a bid knocked back for the 23-year-old.

However, over the last few weeks, O’Riley performance levels have began to dry up. This has been worrying for Celtic as O’Riley was the main focal point of the team in the first-half of the season, and that over-reliance on him to make things happen has led to the situation Celtic find themselves in in the second half of the season.

When O’Riley isn’t playing well, as a result Celtic aren’t playing well either. The signs are pointing to Matt O’Riley being burnt out, but can Celtic afford to rest him?

Who steps in?
If Matt O’Riley needs one or two games on the sidelines just to regroup and get back to his best self, the obvious option to step into the team is Paulo Bernardo.

Brendan Rodgers changed the shape of his Celtic team for the Scottish Cup fifth round tie against St Mirren in Paisley, with Bernardo being the sacrifice allowing Rodgers to deploy a two striker formation.

If O’Riley is rested, Bernardo can slot back into the team. Since the return from the winter break, you could argue that Bernardo has been performing better than O’Riley.

A strong presser with some good feet, Bernardo has the potential to make it at Celtic, but he has only really come into form over the last few weeks, and he still has plenty to prove to justify Celtic forking out the £6million buy-out clause to ensure he stays at Celtic Park beyond the summer.

Given O’Riley a rest and Bernardo a run in the team to prove himself before Reo Hatate returns from injury could be a wise move from Brendan Rodgers, but as previously mentioned, Matt O’Riley’s importance to this Celtic team in paramount.

Therefore, can Celtic afford to drop him?

Can Celtic afford to drop him?
It is often said of top quality players that they can play themselves back into form. We saw Callum McGregor do that earlier in the season after many had criticised his early performances, and Matt O’Riley is exactly the sort of player that can do just that.

With only one mid-week game still to be played before the split, O’Riley should get a bit more time to rest than he would have been afforded over the last few weeks, and given how tight the title race is at this current moment with a Scottish Cup also still up for grabs, Celtic may need to stick things through with O’Riley.

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