While Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic side overcame a rather large hurdle in the Premiership title race on Thursday evening, securing a 1-0 win over third-placed Hearts, the victory came at quite a significant cost for the 56-year-old manager and his side.
Indeed, Jota, Stephen Welsh and Anthony Ralston all had to be substituted due to injury, while Carl Stafelt also appeared to finish the fixture with a knock to his knee.
As such, it looks as if Celtic will travel to Dundee United today with something of a depleted squad. However, speaking after the Hearts game, Postecoglou suggested that the injuries picked up by a number of his regular starters will, in turn, provide an opportunity for those who are yet to get many games under their belt this term.
The 56-year-old said: “We saw on Thursday night that Adam Montgomery had to come on and he has not played for four or five weeks. We still have a fair chunk of important games coming up after [Real] Betis so it makes sense to get some minutes into some of the other guys so that when we call on them they will have played in this period.
“James McCarthy, Mikey Johnston, Liel Abada and Nir Bitton all come into that category. There is an opportunity to get some minutes into their legs and have them ready when required.”
One of the players Postecoglou mentions above, Mikey Johnston, would appear to be in more need than most for regular first-team minutes, as, since his return from injury earlier this season, the 22-year-old has started just once for the Hoops.
Indeed, the winger has endured a frustrating last couple of years at Celtic, with the £900k-rated man featuring in just 10 fixtures last season due to injury, as well as missing a large portion of the start of the current campaign with a knock.
However, the former Scotland U21 international has proven that, when he is fully fit, he can be an extremely useful player in the Bhoys’ attack, scoring six goals and registering six assists over 22 appearances back in 2019/20, as well as bagging five goals and one assist over 23 appearances in 2018/19.
Furthermore, Celtic captain Callum McGregor is quite clearly convinced of the £7.9k-per-week forward’s ability, with the 28-year-old midfielder stating: “He’s such a brilliant talent, bags of ability, bags of potential and he’s one as well that the manager’s asking a lot of him physically.
“He’s responding really well and the guys are doing some great work with him in the physio department and sports science to really get him to a level where he can go and make that impact. Against Hibs, I thought he was sensational.”
As such, with it being clear that Postecoglou simply must begin rotating his side more frequently if he is to avoid a catastrophic injury crisis at Parkhead, the 56-year-old must unleash Johnston against Dundee United this afternoon, as the winger could well prove to play pivotal in Celtic’s Premiership push this season – if given the chance.