Wednesday 16 January 2019

Rodgers believes Bitton is a Nir perfect fit in defence

Nir Bitton
Nir Bitton

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers believes Nir Bitton is "perfect" for his new role as a central defender.

The 25-year-old midfielder took over from injured stopper Erik Sviatchenko in the first half of Wednesday's 1-0 win over Rosenborg which set up a Champions League play-off tie with Astana of Kazakhstan.

Bitton started alongside Jozo Simunovic in the Scottish Premiership opener against Hearts at Parkhead on Saturday and helped Celtic stroll to a 4-1 win, where Leigh Griffiths notched twice with Scott Sinclair and Callum McGregor also on the scoresheet.

With Sviatchenko and Dedryck Boyata out until September with knee injuries, the Israel international, who joined Celtic from FC Ashdod in 2013, will continue to be deployed at the back with Rodgers' confidence.

"You can see he is very comfortable in it," said the Northern Irishman. "Firstly he can defend. We haven't just thrown him in there, he played a lot there in training and in a lot of exercises he has played centre half. He is good in the air, he reads the game well as a defender, he is brave and he has the courage to play, he can get on the ball and starts the attacks from behind.

"I thought he was outstanding during the week when he came on and on Saturday if you didn't know he had played a lot in midfield in his career, you would say he looked like a top centre half.

"I always like a midfielder who can play in that central defensive role and he is perfect for it."

Much of the post-match talk was about the criticism Hearts' interim manager Jon Daly, in charge after head coach Ian Cathro was sacked during the week, handed out to Rodgers for questioning the recruitment policy at Tynecastle.

The Celtic boss had said: "He (Cathro) is trying to play football and you are bringing in players who play a direct game. So it makes me ask about where the players are coming from or if they are his."

Daly claimed Rodgers' comments were "absolutely disgraceful" and "very poor form" but after he had addressed that issue, he had to deal with a more practical one - the fact that Hearts will not play any Premiership fixtures at Tynecastle until November due to delays in the main stand construction.

The Gorgie men will face Aberdeen in September and St Johnstone and Rangers in October at Murrayfield rugby stadium in Edinburgh.

Daly said: "It is tough one for us that we are not going to be at Tynecastle for 12 or 13 games.

"We need to create that siege mentality of being away from home."

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