The Brendan Rodgers juggernaut is in full swing as Celtic set their sights on winning a treble for the first time since 2001. Having lifted the League Cup at the back end of 2016 and just six points needed to clinch a sixth consecutive title, the Hoops essentially have two Scottish Cup games standing between them and eternal glory.
Despite focusing on the job in hand, the former Liverpool boss will already have an eye on where the team needs strengthening for next season and which players aren’t in his plans.
Here we look at three players who are playing for their futures at Parkhead…
18 months ago Bitton was considered to be one of the jewels in the Celtic squad, someone who could command a fee in the region of £10 million after a number of strong showings under Ronny Deila. That potential hasn’t kicked on as he would have liked and he may well have to move on but in a not-so glamorous fashion.
If there’s one area of the team where Celtic have depth it’s in central midfield and while Bitton has fought for his fair share of game time under Rodgers, if everyone is fit he’s likely to miss out on a starting berth. Scott Brown, Stuart Armstrong and Tom Rogic are untouchables in Rodgers’ side and on the bench the Bhoys boast other talents such as Liam Henderson, Callum McGregor and the recently signed Eboue Kouassi. Of those considered to be ‘back up’ options, Bitton is the easiest to jettison and would rake in the highest fee.
Bitton was linked with Fulham and Espanyol in January and Rodgers admitted he wouldn’t stand in the Israeli international’s way if he was tempted to pursue a move away from Glasgow. It seems the 25-year-old is expendable but a solid run of performances from now until the end of the campaign could change Rodgers’ mind.
It seems strange now but between Mackay-Steven and Armstrong, it was the former who was expected to become more of a fans’ favourite at Paradise when the duo signed from Dundee United in January 2015. It’s turned out to be the exact opposite as the winger has flattered to deceive during a frustrating period in the east end of the city.
The skillful, dynamic forward who was known for getting the crowd on their feet at United has hardly impressed the Celtic faithful. In fact, his latest showing against St.Mirren in the Scottish Cup a fortnight ago perfectly summed up his Parkhead career as he was hooked at half-time for a quite awful display.
Mackay-Steven spent much of the early months under Rodgers on the sidelines but made his return from injury in December. The ex Swansea coach made it clear he didn’t want the 26-year-old to move out on loan in January and that he valued him as a useful member of the squad for the second half of the season.
Rodgers has handed Mackay-Steven opportunities but there’s no rhythm to the wide man’s game at the moment and he’s so obviously low on confidence that it’s hard for him to repay the faith the manager has shown in him. A big improvement is needed if Mackay-Steven wants to stay with the champions next term.
A slightly more left field choice but Christie finds himself in the same boat as Mackay-Steven. The 22-year-old is currently on loan at Aberdeen hoping to impress Rodgers from afar. Having spent the first half of the season with the Hoops but finding chances limited, the striker decided to try his luck elsewhere in order to continue his progression.
His situation is similar to Mackay-Steven whereby the next few months are likely to shape his future at Celtic Park but unlike his counterpart he’s giving Rodgers some food for thought. The former Inverness youngster has scored two goals in three starts for the Dons including a delicious chip with the outside of his boot against Motherwell.
Celtic have some serious firepower up front already with Moussa Dembele and Leigh Griffiths but they could do with another forward who’s ideally young and ready to step in if there are injuries or the manager wants to rotate the squad.
An on-form Christie could save the Bhoys from spending money in the transfer market in order to find a reliable third choice forward who can provide competition to those in front of him. So far he’s going about things in the right way.