Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou saw the benefit of his training demands as well as a potential downside as the depth of his squad came into focus this week.
Postecoglou insisted he would not reduce the intensity of his sessions or game plan after strikers Albian Ajeti and Kyogo Furuhashi suffered hamstring injuries in Thursday’s 3-2 win over Real Betis.
With both sides’ Europa League fate already determined, the game was meant to be a chance for Postecoglou to rest players and give others much-needed game time.
But the headline outcome was the injury to key forward Furuhashi – who came off the bench to replace Ajeti – which is set to leave Celtic without a recognised first-team striker when they host Motherwell on Sunday.
However, the victory was a major boost for Celtic’s fringe players and there were some impressive debuts for defender Osaze Urhoghide and Liam Shaw.
The former Sheffield Wednesday pair looked to have made major progress since their pre-season outings and signalled they could be more involved in the coming weeks.
“It really just comes down to them continuing to do what they have been doing,” Postecoglou said. “They haven’t had a lot of opportunities, but they have been working hard every day waiting for their chance and that was their chance.
“Definitely, they have done their efforts no harm in terms of getting another opportunity. And that’s what we expect.
“Thursday was that platform for them against a very good team, on the European stage, and I thought they handled it really well considering they hadn’t had the ideal preparation for a game like that.”
A hush befell Celtic Park when Furuhashi trudged off holding his hamstring, but attacking midfielder Ewan Henderson immediately raised the home fans’ spirits by netting his first goal for the club on his maiden appearance under Postecoglou.
The former Australia head coach said: “It’s the same with all these guys, sometimes you wonder whether they really understand or listen when I’m on my daily preaching session.
“But I keep telling them, just work hard, you never know when your opportunity is going to come and, when it comes, you don’t want to miss it because you haven’t been playing or you’re not ready.
“That’s why we push them hard every day in training, to understand their roles, understand our football. Hendo knew where he was supposed to be when the ball flashed across and he got his reward.”
Postecoglou was also without Jota, James Forrest and Anthony Ralston on Thursday, with the former definitely missing in the coming weeks.
But he will get some fresh players back for the visit of Motherwell.
“We left out a few (on Thursday night) which will help us, so that will be good to get them back involved,” he said.
“It’s a good test for us because Motherwell have been in good form, but there’s no doubt we are also in very good form and here at home we want to make sure we continue the momentum we have gained in the league, and play our football, and put pressure on an opponent who obviously will try and stop us.”