While Celtic have seen their league form drastically improve under the leadership of Ange Postecoglou in recent months, with the Bhoys remaining undefeated over the last eight Premiership fixtures, the 56-year-old Hoops manager will nevertheless be aware that his side will face one of their sterner tests of the season at Parkhead this evening.
Indeed, Robbie Neilson’s Heart of Midlothian side have also been incredibly impressive in the current campaign, sitting just two points behind Celtic in the league, as well as having already taken three points off of the Bhoys on the opening day of the season.
As such, Postecoglou will know that he must get his team selection spot on against Hearts if he is to have any hope of his side reducing the gap between them the current Premiership leaders, with one player who the Greek-Australian coach simply must call upon tonight being Nir Bitton.
With Tom Rogic’s hamstring injury leaving Celtic somewhat short in the middle of the park, Postecoglou opted to slightly change his setup in the middle of the park, playing the more defensively-minded Bitton in place of the 28-year-old attacking midfielder.
And, while this change would, on the surface, appear to make the Bhoys more defensive, Bitton has in fact flourished in the absence of Rogic, with the 30-year-old being one of the Hoops’ most impressive players over the last four fixtures.
Indeed, in this period, the £720k-rated Israel international has enjoyed 353 touches of the ball, completed 269 passes, made 15 tackles and won a whopping 31 duels, with these metrics seeing the £14k-per-week midfielder average a SofaScore match rating of 7.33.
As such, while both Bitton and Rogic look as if they will be available for selection against Hearts this evening, Postecoglou simply must unleash Bitton ahead of the Australia international.
Not only would he help to solidify Celtic against a side who have already scored 25 goals in the league, the man the 56-year-old manager himself dubbed “influential” has also proven to be something of a game-changer in the middle of the park in the absence of Rogic.