Celtic stretched their lead at the top of the table with yesterday’s 3-0 win over Dundee but what did we learn as this new look side continue to find their feet under Brendan Rodgers?
Here we take a look at five key factors ahead of Tuesday’s crucial Champions League opener with Dutch Champions Feyenoord
REO HATATE MAKES CELTIC TICK
For many players you don’t realise just how important they are to the team until they’re missing for a period of time and that’s absolutely the case with Reo Hatate.
Until yesterday the Japanese midfielder had completed just 48 minutes of competitive action in the season so far – due to a mix of injury and team selection – but he once again showed his value to this Celtic side with his second half cameo.
Whilst he never scored or assisted after his introduction on the hour mark the 25 year old clearly brings a different energy and a different dimension to Celtic’s midfield and it’s little wonder our play improved dramatically from that stage in the game.
Seven minutes after taking the field it’s 3-0 Celtic and the game is completely done as a contest.
He must now be in the driving seat for a return to the starting XI in Rotterdam on Tuesday night.
JOE HART PROVES HIS WORTH AGAIN
A home game against a side like Dundee is never one that’s going to see any Celtic keeper peppered with shots and Saturday was no different.
All the more reason then for our No.1 to retain concentration at all times for the few occasions when he will be called into action.
And that’s exactly what happened as we approached half time against the Dens Park side.
Having dominated possession we suddenly found ourselves exposed down the right hand side as Dundee made theiir way into the box.
But as the ball broke to Luke McCowan on the edge of the 6 yard box Joe Hart stepped up once again.
With the winger expecting to find the back of the net Hart reacted first, making himself made big to deny a certain goal for the away side.
Stories of the ex-England internationals demise have been greatly exaggerated!
NAT PHILLIPS NEEDS TO SHAKE OFF THE RUST
Ahead of the game we debated whether Rodgers would stick with the Ibrox centre half pairing of Lagerbielke and Scales, or whether Liverpool loanee Nat Phillips would be given his first start.
The manager chose the latter and it’s fair to say that the 26 year old stopper looks short of match practice at this time.
At 6 foot 3 he’s an imposing character and he’ll go on to face more attacking threat than Dundee could muster yesterday, but it’s his ball distribution which may give most cause for concern at this stage.
On several occasion he was unable to pick out a team-mate with what should have been fairly routine passes, which may well come down to that lack of recent game-time but we’ll be hoping to see a marked improvement on that front.
He limped off at half-time to be replaced by Lagerbielke and it remains to be seen if he’ll now start against Feyenoord – whether through injury or match sharpness.
KYOGO HAS IT ALL
Whilst being a goalscorer is his out and out forte, Kyogo Furuhashi must all be given the credit he’s due for the phenomenal work he does off the ball to also create space and chances for his team-mates.
This was no more evident than at Celtic’s crucial third goal as he made a darting run to get on the end of a perfect ball by alistair Johnston, before having the vision to cut it back for the onrushing Matt O’Riley to seal the game.
If you need evidence of just how much his team-mates appreciate him check out O’Riley’s reaction during the celebrations.
Kyogo had of course got his on goal just minutes prior as another trademark run saw him picked out perfectly by Callum McGregor before he deftly glanced a header high into Trevor Carson’s net.
He now sits top of the Scottish premiership charts for both goals and assists, with five and two respectively after our opening five games.
NEW BHOYS SHOWING POTENTIAL
As anticipated the game would see more debuts than just that of Nat Phillips with Luis Palma and Paulo Bernardo both introduced during the second half.
Hot on the heels of representing their nations on international duty – Palma for Honduras and Bernardo for Portugal U21’s – both were fit and raring to go as their first appearances in the Hoops beckoned.
As with Hatate neither player assisted or scored on the day, but again each showed a level of quality and flair that indicated they may be set to bring some much needed creativity to the team.
A sublime nutmeg in particular by Palma was a highlight but hopes are high that both will have a notable impact in the weeks and months ahead.
Feyenoord may come too soon for Bernardo with fierce competition across the midfield at present, but Palma has a chance of starting in Rotterdam based on our wide options at this time.
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First up is our Countdown To Kick-Off ahead of that all-important Champions League clash with Feyenoord, before our latest episode of The Celtic Exchange weekly as always.
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