Why Alistair Johnston will be vital for Celtic in the Champions League

Alistair Johnston’s return to the fold at Celtic following a knee injury has been very well received by supporters, with the Canadian slotting seamlessly back into Brendan Rodgers’ defence. His presence was felt in the Glasgow Derby as he rose to the occasion as part of a makeshift backline that left Ibrox with a clean sheet.

Fans were also delighted to find out that Johnston’s substitution from the field was just a precaution, with the right-back fully fit and ready to go following the international break.

The Canadian being at the peak of his powers for the upcoming UEFA Champions League campaign is imperative if Celtic are to have any chance of success and here is why:

Top quality defender

Alistair Johnston came to Celtic with a good reputation as a Canadian internationalist and he hit the ground running at Parkhead. Johnston loves to battle and he instantly showed those qualities at the club as an assured defender who never shies away from a crunching tackle.

He has shown great determination and a never-say-die attitude that has earned him the adulation of supporters as well as showing some great leadership qualities.

Being a leader will be vital for the Champions League with Celtic’s backline bound to have their backs against the wall time and time again. It is in those situations that the good players become great players and make themselves count, and Johnston has shown the early signs that he is able to do just that.

Big-game player

Another reason why the supporters have taken to Alistair Johnston so quickly is his knack for stepping up in a big game, the derby matches in particular. The Canadian received a baptism of fire for his debut as he entered a highly important trip to Ibrox for the New Year derby and, despite Celtic conceding two goals on the day, Johnston did enough to encourage supporters that he was the right man to replace Josip Juranovic.

He backed that up with another two standout displays against Celtic’s arch rivals, with his performance in a 3-2 derby win at Parkhead being the pick of the bunch as the 24-year-old won 12 defensive duels as well as showcasing his great recovery pace, something that is a must for Celtic in the Champions League.

Johnston is going to be facing some top quality wingers with real pace and energy and his quality in one-on-one defending will be a really important attribute for navigating his way through tough games.

World Cup experience

Whilst not possessing any experience in Europe’s premier competition, Johnston has arguably had experience on a bigger stage as he started every group stage game in Canada’s 2022 Qatar World Cup campaign.

Although Canada went winless in a group consisting of Morocco, Croatia and Belgium, facing off against the likes of Yannick Carrasco, Eden Hazard and Ivan Perisic will have provided him with some valuable experience that will serve him well against Europe’s elite.

It’s not just the players he faced that will have taught him lessons, but the hopes of a nation being on the shoulders of him and his teammates will have served him well, and he won’t shy away from the occasion when 60,000 Celtic fans flock to Parkhead for some blockbuster European encounters.


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