Having competition for places is extremely healthy in the make-up of a successful football team, especially in the engine room that is the midfield.

However, you could counter that argument by saying a settled line-up is just as important in the grand scheme of things. Nevertheless, it is a great headache for Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers to have, as he now has a plethora of options in the middle of the park to choose from.

Both fortunately and unfortunately for the manager and those looking to break into the side in these areas respectively, it feels like a bit of a foregone conclusion when discussing opportunities for those waiting in the wings. Alas, Rodgers’ midfield looks comfortably settled at this moment in time, with the three of Callum McGregor, Reo Hatate and Matt O’Riley currently automatic selections with regard to matchday starting line-ups.

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With that being said, spare a thought for the likes of David Turnbull and Tomoki Iwata, as well as new recruits such as Odin Thiago Holm, Paulo Bernardo and even Kwon Hyeok-kyu (remember him?), who all feel very much like squad options at the moment, rather than major players in proceedings. The question now is: how do they force their way into this side?

Easier said than done, as you could argue that two out of the three spots are nailed on, with the third close to being the same in terms of Hatate’s return to form. Following a mixed start to the season, the dynamic Hatate was back to his best in his last outing against Kilmarnock, with an incredible solo goal the ocular proof of his return to prominence.

Captain McGregor – also back on form – is an automatic first-pick, being the skipper. There were a few question marks surrounding the Scotland international, but his performance at Ibrox silenced virtually all of the doubters that day. McGregor had sparked into life, steering a depleted Celtic to a famous win against their greatest rivals.

Despite his return to the McGregor of old, it has not been the captain who has been stealing the headlines this season, but rather Celtic’s number 33 Matt O’Riley, the standout player for the club thus far this season. With five goals and three assists in all competitions so far, the recent Denmark call-up has been a revelation under Rodgers, with the manager unlocking another gear in his game. An undoubtedly talented but sometimes inconsistent player under previous manager Ange Postecoglou, the man-management of the returning Rodgers has been a godsend for O’Riley’s development, with the 22-year-old now in the best form of his young career.

All three of Celtic’s current first-team midfielders have signalled their confidence in the new manager by signing multi-year contract extensions with the club. McGregor and Hatate have signed five-year deals, whilst O’Riley is contracted for another four.

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For those waiting on an opportunity to stake their own claim on proceedings, they may need to take a leaf out of the book of Liam Scales for inspiration. With chaos comes opportunity, and the defensive injury crisis at the start of the season has allowed for a career renaissance in the newly capped Republic of Ireland defender. Now a mainstay in the side, it will take a lot of hard work and effort from the likes of Maik Nawrocki, Nat Phillips and Gustaf Lagerbielke to dislodge him, despite their respective qualities and attributes.

Switching our attentions back to the midfield, those lying in wait for that moment may have to bide their time for that aforementioned chaos to transpire. At this present moment, the likes of Bernardo and Holm are not going to displace O’Riley and Hatate, though that may change if injuries or a drop in form occurs. The likelihood of the former happening inevitably gets higher due to the volume of fixtures the club will need to negotiate at this time of year.

For Holm, time is on his side, due to the permanent deal he signed this summer. At just 20, he can slip in and out of the side without harming his development and footballing education, though it is perhaps a different story for Bernardo. Despite having an option to buy inserted into his initial loan deal, the 22-year-old finds himself in a race against time to impress Rodgers and his coaching staff. Yes, he has the training ground to showcase his abilities every day, but the Portugal U21 player has yet to start since his deadline day arrival from Benfica. Time is of the essence for Bernardo to make an impact, and he has to take it if and when it comes along.

For the aforementioned pair, life at Celtic does seem somewhat rosy for their prospects at the club, though the same could not be said for Turnbull, Iwata and Kwon, whose current first-team aspirations are looking bleak, to say the least. Iwata has made two appearances – when Celtic had players sent off – whilst Kwon has yet to make his competitive debut for the club, following a horror show in a friendly match against Athletic Club.

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There were high hopes for Turnbull, especially given he started the first two games against Ross County and Aberdeen, but his performance in the latter meant he was replaced by Hatate after just 45 minutes. With just a year left on his deal and a failure to grasp the golden – and possibly final – opportunity to make the position his own, all roads are unfortunately leading to the exit door for the talented midfielder. A shame, given the fanfare when he eventually arrived at the club, given his well-documented injury woes the previous summer.

Patience is indeed a virtue for those waiting for that big break, especially in those busy midfield areas at Celtic. Will that patience pay off, or will those anticipating a gap in the team look elsewhere for the game time they’re currently being starved of? Only time will tell, but the trinity of McGregor, Hatate and O’Riley are looking – and indeed, playing - like the divine midfield Celtic and Rodgers require at this moment in time.