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Blaise Bourgeois

Neil Lennon impressed by Nir Bitton’s stand-in performance


For the second time in three seasons, Celtic started natural defensive midfielder Nir Bitton at centre-back in a Champions League qualifier.

Celtic recently paid Toulouse £7m for centre-back Christopher Jullien, but the 26-year-old was not ready to participate in their 3-1 first-leg victory over FK Sarajevo.

Despite playing out of position, Celtic boss Neil Lennon heaped the praise on the Israeli international for his fine effort in relief and expects him to feature prominently this season 18 months following a harsh knee injury.

“Nir can play at the back, but it’s not ideal. Christopher isn’t up to speed yet and we are still looking to strengthen there, too.

“Ideally, I’d like Bitton to play in midfield, but he showed his qualities in defence too.

“I’m looking for a big season from Nir. No matter what position he plays. He’s had a very good pre-season after a bad injury.

“It was a concerted period out for him of 10 months to a year. He played a few games for me last season, but he still had a little problem with his knee.

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“Nir went away with Israel 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.”

Bitton arrived from Israeli side FC Ashdod six years ago and has featured 182 times for the club.