Celtic boss Neil Lennon has told The Scottish Sun that playing Nir Bitton in defence is 'not ideal' – but he's hoping for a big season from him.
The Bhoys came from behind to beat FK Sarajevo in the first leg of their Champions League qualifying tie on Tuesday, winning 3-1 after a rough start in the Bosnian capital.
Celtic should have a passage into the next round, and Lennon will be hoping that he doesn't have to field another patchwork defence in the coming weeks.
With no right back signed, centre back Kristoffer Ajer had to play at right back, with midfielder Bitton dropped into defence alongside Jozo Simunovic.
Bitton struggled at first but eventually grew into the game, and with new signing Christopher Jullien not yet ready, he may still have a role to play at centre back.
The Israeli international certainly has the size at 6ft 5in tall, but boss Lennon doesn't see his long-term future being in the heart of his Celtic defence.
Lennon has admitted that playing Bitton there is 'not ideal', but praised him for being a good athlete and filling where needed, believing he's shown his defensive qualities.
Lennon does though believe that Bitton will be playing in midfield for the season, and is expecting a big campaign from him after returning to pre-season in great shape.
“I’m looking for a big season from Nir, no matter what position he plays,” said Lennon. “He’s had a very good pre-season after a bad injury. It was a concerted period out for him, ten months to a year. He played a few games for me last season, but he still had a little problem with his knee. Nir went away with Israel at the end of the season and has come back looking really good.”
“We have now thrown down the challenge to him to step up and make an impact on the team. He has the game to do it. Nir is 27 and he’s a good athlete. There is more to come from him. But I have been very pleased with him so far. Nir can play at the back, but it’s not ideal. Ideally, I’d like Bitton to play in midfield, but he showed his qualities in defence too,” he added.
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