Shane Duffy 'duty of Celtic care' discussed as changes inevitable

Kristoffer Ajer is set to return to the Celtic side for the crucial league encounter at Motherwell - with Neil Lennon hinting that Shane Duffy’s recent form issues could see him dropping out.

Kristoffer Ajer will return for Celtic at Motherwell after missing the past three games (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

Norwegian international Ajer has fully recovered from a tightness in his hamstring that forced him to miss the club’s last two matches - the 4-1 humbling by Sparta Prague and the Scottish Cup semi-final win Aberdeen that preceded it. Meanwhile, Lennon admitted that he has a “duty of care” to on-loan Brighton defender Duffy, whose confidence appear shot following a number of difficult outings in the past month.

“Thursday was too soon for him [Ajer] but he is back in contention for Sunday,” said Lennon. “We are not keeping as many clean sheets as I would like. Defensively we have to do better at set-plays and generally be better as a unit. We were a little bit individualistic on Thursday and we didn’t stay connected and that was half the problem. There is a lot of work still to be done with the team in terms of where we want to get to.

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“I will manage [the Shane Duffy situation] the best way I see possible. Sometimes it’s not for public consumption. We have a duty of care to the player, whether he is struggling with confidence or not. That’s the same with every player. He seems to be under the spotlight quite a bit. That’s the nature of the game up here sometimes, you’ve got to show a bit of personality and character and come through it. I’m sure he will.”

Lennon could soon have all his central defensive options back in play after confirming that Christopher Jullien is back from a period of intensive treatment on a back complaint with a specialist in Germany. Jullien has not featured for two months but Lennon believes the hiatus that will follow the Fir Park encounter will provide the opportunity for the 27-year-old to get up to speed for the challenges to come. “It will be after the international break [we see Jullien],” the Celtic manager said. “He was back in for the first time today [Saturday] but he is feeling better and he will now have a couple of weeks of rehab and physical work.”

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