One of the recurring themes of the season so far has been the enormous number of games played by players like Callum McGregor and James Forrest. These guys have been used more than any other players in Europe, along with the magnificent presence of Scott Brown.
He, at least, has not had to endure the added complication of international football.
Things are not going to get any easier for our Scottish players either.
There are more games to come, including an international break in March. The madness of postponing SPL fixture for that has, at least, been overtaken by common sense, but that’s as good as it gets. The calendar is booked solid all the way through to the split.
Progress in Europe would be great, but we’re ever aware of the acute fixture pile-up which looms in front of us in that scenario. Whilst nobody wants to go out of the Europa League before we get to a round which has the word “final” in it – and if we get that far we’d want to go the whole way – there’s a danger that it could imperil our title hopes. The board’s ridiculous failure to give the manager more players will certainly come home to roost in that scenario.
With that possibility in mind, we have to make as good use of the squad as we can.
This means giving players like McGregor, Forrest and Brown a little time in the stands.
Soro has been signed for the midfield. We can play Bitton there if he’s going to be fit. Brown and McGregor could easily be rested up. If Maryan Shved finds something in training that’s a break for Forrest. Mo Elyounoussi and Bolingoli are both available on the left, in whatever formation we play.
Ryan Christie and Tom Rogic are there. Bayo is there. It’s only in central defence that we look somewhat threadbare, and yet Stephen Welsh stepped in against Hamilton and looked very good. He isn’t named in the provisional squad for today, which is somewhat disappointing.
We will certainly see him again this season though; he’s a prospect.
The manager described Callum as the natural replacement for Scott Brown in the role of captain just the other day; I agree, but I think there’s an equally good candidate in Ajer. But he had it right on, and the comparison with Paul Lambert was equally valid; Callum is the most complete midfielder I’ve seen in the Celtic side since the European Cup winner was at Parkhead.
Yet this kind of pace is unsustainable.
Do we want this guy motoring when the team needs to be on fire at the back end of this campaign?
He risks breaking down, and we cannot afford that.
A day like today is the perfect time to leave him out.
Give the two new signings a run out here and let’s have a look at what they’ve got.
This is a perfect debut for them both … there is next to no chance of us seeing a Roy Keane style shock.
We don’t have Du Wei at the back.
In the end, this is what we have a quality squad of players for.
Lennon may think it represents a risk to leave some of your top guys out for a game like this, but we can’t expect these guys to run through walls week in week out without taking an even bigger one. Something has to give. Let’s give them a rest that involves the minimum risk.