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Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers backs Nir Bitton

Nir Bitton (C) of Celtic is tracked by Josh Windass (L) and Rob Kiernan (R) of Rangers during the Betfred Cup Semi-Final match between Rangers and Celtic at Hampden Park on October 23,...

Is Nir Bitton set to start for Celtic in the Champions League next week? If Brendan Rodgers's comments are anything to go by, yes.

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers has told The Record that he trusts makeshift defender Nir Bitton, amid widespread calls from the fanbase that he should drop him next week.

The Israel international has been plugging gaps in central defence over the past couple of weeks as a result of injuries to Erik Sviatchenko and Dedryck Boyata.

And he has, in his defence, looked good in games against Rosenborg and Hearts, but Bitton came under fire for a shaky display against Partick on Friday in which he could and should have conceded a penalty for a late foul which was not given.

Nir Bitton (R) of Celtic and Stephen Lowry (L) of Linfield during the Champions League second round first leg qualifying game between Linfield and Celtic at Windsor Park on July 14, 2017...

As a result, Celtic fans on Twitter urged Rodgers to replace him with Kristoffer Ajer for their Champions League first-leg qualifier with Astana on Wednesday.

But the Northern Irish has suggested to The Record that he intends on playing the 25-year-old this week.

“Think how well Nir played against Rosenborg in a big-pressure game and then against Hearts on opening day.

“He’s been up against boys who have been a real handful like Kyle Lafferty and Conor Sammon. They’re making him defend, he’s not getting it all his own way. But he’s coping very well with it.

“I wouldn’t put him in if I didn’t trust he could do the job. He gives you that extra dimension when you have the ball because he plays there like a midfielder.

“He gets you quicker through the lines to play forward. I’m not worried about him playing there.”

Rodgers has a point in a way.

Bitton was excellent in that high-pressure game in Rosenborg earlier this month and such a performance should suggest that he can do it on the big stage.

At the same time, you can understand fear from the Hoops' faithful. It's such a big game this week and there is no margin for error, but they should trust their manager's judgement, having delivered them a domestic treble last season.

Nir Bitton (C) of Celtic is tracked by Josh Windass (L) and Rob Kiernan (R) of Rangers during the Betfred Cup Semi-Final match between Rangers and Celtic at Hampden Park on October 23,...

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