Celtic have been hit hard by coronavirus after Christopher Jullien returned a positive test, forcing 13 of his teammates to undergo a self-isolation period. Neil Lennon must also quarantine until the 10-day period is over, which has left the reigning Premiership champions in a bit of a nightmare.
The Hoops are already trailing by a mammoth 21 points to runaway league leaders Rangers. Their inconsistent run this season has been the perfect chance for Steven Gerrard to get one hand on the trophy. Now, amid the recent their recent woes, Celtic risk being utterly humiliated.
In their most recent fixture, Gavin Strachan stepped in to replace the absent Lennon as The Bhoys were reduced to a thread-bare team, which saw the likes of Cameron Harper and Mikey Johnston make their first starts of the season.
Stephen Welsh was another young player to slot into the senior squad and make a rare start. The centre-back featured alongside Shane Duffy to make up the backline and he was, perhaps surprisingly, one of Celtic’s stronger performers.
According to Sofascore, the defender made six clearances and three interceptions as well as winning 10 of his 14 attempted duels. For context, both of these totals were higher than his defensive teammates and it was the highest amount of duels that he has won whilst featuring as a senior Celtic player.
With Jullien, Kristoffer Ajer and Hatem Abd Elhamed set to miss further games due to their isolation periods, Celtic will likely be looking to rely on Welsh once again. The next hurdle for the Glaswegians is Livingston on Saturday and picking three points will be a huge boost for morale around camp.
Indeed, a win and perhaps even a clean sheet will do wonders for Welsh’s confidence and could put him in contention to start more fixtures next season when Duffy returns from his loan spell. The £135,000-rated youngster must seize this rare opportunity to showcase his ability and prove that he is good enough to start alongside the club’s best defenders.
Duffy has hardly set the world alight during his loan spell and with Celtic’s title chances all but gone, there would be little point selecting him if the Hoops don’t intend to keep him around for the long term. Lennon might be much better off giving Welsh a run in the side to see if he has what it takes to be a genuine first-team option going forwards.
If he can replicate his performance against Hibs over a number of games, he’s got every chance of putting himself in the frame for a role next year.
In other news, Hammond made huge mistake by not signing Mark McKenzie…