Is there a chance Celtic's true talisman is coming into form at just the right time?
Odsonne Edouard is showing signs of returning to his best. Can he make a match-winner at Ibrox?
Of all the Celtic players who've suffered through huge dips in form across the 2019/20 season – and there’s been too many to count – none have dropped as severely as last season’s leading marksman Odsonne Edouard.
Coming into the campaign, Celtic were reportedly ready to reject in the region of £30million for his services. That wasn't as daft as it may sound now. Considering they got £20million for Moussa Dembele, an extra £10million for his younger, more prolific, less injury-prone countryman didn't seem out of the question. And seeing as this was the 10-in-a-row season, where the club's board couldn't afford to sell anyone in fear of a massive backlash from the fanbase if things went wrong, it made perfect sense that they'd be prepared to reject such a huge chunk of money.
Safe to say, Edouard has not played like a £30million player. He's barely looked a £5million player with the exception of a couple of nice goals in Europe.
He started off with a flyer, netting a hat-trick and looking a cut above the rest of the league in a 5-1 destruction of Hamilton Accies as the Scottish Premiership got underway. He then went almost five months without scoring another goal from open play in domestic football. Five. Months.
That alarming record was finally put to bed with a beautiful finish in Celtic's 3-0 win over Dundee United on Wednesday. Despite passing up three strong chances earlier in the game, he had enough belief in himself to lob a beautiful finish over the head of Benjamin Siegrist to wrap up the points.
Even if he hadn't found the back of the net his overall display would still have been viewed as a continuation of his recent form where he’s started to approach his former best. Celtic boss Neil Lennon himself admitted earlier in the season – after initially denying it, of course – that Edouard had been distracted by the speculation about his future. Which roughly translates: 'he had his eye on playing for someone else'.
Languid even when he's firing on all cylinders, it was fairly obvious to see that his heart wasn't fully earlier in the campaign. It's similarly easy to tell from the last few games that his commitment has been re-energised. Probably because he's figured out that a move to a richer club and more prestigious league isn't going to happen if he only scores penalties in the Scottish top flight.
Against United he looked hungry. He moved quickly and decisively on and off the ball. You could almost see him playing in a cloud before; now things appear much clearer.
He's still not back to his former self but he's getting there. If he takes a serious step in that direction on Saturday then Celtic will have a match-winner in their ranks capable of downing any team, even one that has conceded just five goals in 21 games. And if he is back and focused for the remainder of the campaign, this may not be the procession for Rangers as it currently appears.
Whether he's quite at that level yet remains to be seen. If he isn't, then expect Saturday to end Celtic’s revival.
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