Reo Hatate’s performance against Feyenoord in Rotterdam in Celtic’s Champions League group stage curtain-raiser has come under a lot of criticism from supporters.
Hatate has only recently returned from an injury he suffered against Aberdeen last month and is understandably lacking in match sharpness. Despite making his first start of the season on Tuesday night, could Reo be dropped back to the bench for Saturday’s trip to the Tony Macaroni Arena?
If Hatate was left out of the starting XI, who could take his place and would it be the right move from Brendan Rodgers?
Turnbull has been Rodgers’ preferred option this season, even when Reo Hatate was fit for the opening fixtures.
He started the season well, scoring a double on the opening day against Ross County, but hasn’t maintained that man-of-the-match form since then. Turnbull hasn’t looked great, especially in high-profile games where his lack of energy and pace really stands out against teams that press Celtic high and try to overrun the midfield.
With Rodgers clearly an admirer, and with the 24-year-old having a knack for producing the extraordinary from long-range, bringing Turnbull in could add some more creativity to Celtic’s midfield, not that Hatate doesn’t bring his fair share already.
A curveball that Rodgers could throw for Saturday’s fixture is the inclusion of Paulo Bernardo for his first start in a Celtic shirt. He was brought on from the bench in two out of the three games he has been available for, but a total of 25 minutes on the field has meant the Portuguese midfielder hasn’t had the time to really stand out and make an impact in those games. In Rotterdam, particularly, Bernardo entered the fray with eight minutes to go and with Celtic reduced to nine men.
As a promising young player who Celtic have an option to buy, Bernardo needs game-time to prove himself to the Celtic faithful and to the coaching staff, so giving him a chance against one of the bottom-half teams in the league could be a wise move.
Despite receiving a red card that contributed to Celtic’s defeat in Rotterdam on Tuesday evening, Holm was defended by Rodgers after the game when the gaffer referred to him as a “talented player”.
There would be no better way to reaffirm his confidence in the youngster, as well as building up Holm’s confidence, than by giving him a start this weekend. In saying that, dropping Hatate for Holm following the Norwegian’s indiscipline against Feyenoord would be an incredibly bold call from the manager.
Despite that poor performance in Rotterdam, Hatate is still a quality player and, as previously mentioned, he was just lacking match sharpness. Dropping him would be counter-productive in that respect.
He has all the tools to be a top player, in the Champions League especially, with his exploits in the competition last season being evidence of that. With this in mind, it would be no surprise if the Japanese playmaker retained his starting slot against Livingston.
JAMES MCKENZIE // Follow James HERE