Celtic rounded off their pre-season with an impressive victory against Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday night. 

Goals from Reo Hatate, Alexandro Bernabei and David Turnbull helped mark James Forrest’s testimonial match in style as the Hoops ran out 3-2 winners over the La Liga side at Celtic Park. After falling behind in the opening minutes and then trailing 2-1 after 45 minutes, a much improved second half, following a full team swap at the break, ensured Celtic ended their preparations for the 2023/24 campaign on a high. 

There were several impressive performers on the night, particularly in the second half. Liel Abada, who replaced the man-of-the-night Forrest in the 49th minute, continued his fine pre-season form with a busy display while South Korean winger Yang Hyun-jun made an impression on his home debut.  Second-half goal scorers Bernabei and Turnbull, often on the fringes last season, staked their claims with eye-catching displays on an evening that also marked Brendan Rodgers’ return to the home dugout at Parkhead.

Another standout, who, like Yang, was making their Paradise bow, was the Hoops’ first summer signing of the window, Odin Thiago Holm. The 20-year-old, named on this year’s 100-man shortlist for the Golden Boy award, caught the eye in the heart of the midfield, helping Celtic take control of the game in the second period. His display resulted in Rodgers singling out the £2.5m buy from Valerenga for praise post-match: “Odin was excellent, his comfort on the ball and his ability. He combined really well.”

Here, we break down Holm’s encouraging 45-minute performance in Celtic’s final warm-up game…


After playing in the number 10 position for the final 20-odd minutes of the 1-1 draw with Wolves in Dublin, Holm was deployed at the base of the midfield as part of the double pivot alongside Matt O’Riley for the second 45 minutes.

Celtic Way:

Wyscout registers Celtic’s shape as a 4-4-2 but as can be seen in the graphic below, Celtic were much more fluid in midfield when in possession, Holm (shown in white in the graphic) was the deepest of the three, O’Riley slightly further forward and then Turnbull was the furthest forward, closest to second-half centre-forward Oh Hyeon-gyu. 

Celtic Way:

This deepest midfield position was where Kwon Hyeok-kyu, another making his home debut, played in the first half. 

Kwon endured a tricky first start at Celtic Park, though, often struggling to progress the ball from defence to attack. The South Korean under-23 international struggled at times under pressure from Athletic’s slick forwards. Callum McGregor noticeably dropped deeper as the first half went on to help facilitate the build-up instead. 

READ MORE: Explained - Why Nawrocki is better long-term for Celtic than Starfelt

In the second half, though, Holm showcased what he could bring to the table as a deeper-lying midfielder against high-quality opposition. 


In the position where he played most often for Valernega, the youngster, in contrast to the nervy Kwon in the first period, looked very comfortable his first minutes on the Celtic Park pitch. Despite making his home debut against a top La Liga side, Holm looked unfazed by either the occasion or the opposition. Signs of his quality in possession, something which stood out when I scouted him earlier in summer, were certainly on show. 

He was secure on the ball, highlighted by the fact he completed all 20 of his passes (mapped below), six of which were forward, in his second-half showing. 

Celtic Way:

Most of these passes were of course, shorter, simpler ones, while Wyscout may have been extra generous as watching back one of his passes to Yang was under hit. That said, it is clear Holm can handle the ball. Kwon, although he did attempt more passes (shown below), was culpable of turning the ball over six times in his 45-minute performance. He was especially guilty of loose play on the ball in dangerous areas around the edge of the box. In his defence, he wasn’t the only one with Hatate at fault for playing a blind pass infield that led to the opening goal for Athletic.

Celtic Way:

An early example of Holm’s quiet effectiveness in possession came in the 51st minute. 

Celtic Way:

Celtic Way:

After scanning left and right, Holm opened up his body just as he received a vertical pass from Scott Bain, swivelling to play forward in one smooth movement. 

Celtic Way:

He then quickly zipped a crisp pass out wide to Bernabei with Celtic then able to progress up the left. It was a nice example of something his footballing idol Thiago, the player whom he changed his name for, is a master of, using his body positioning to maximise passing options and escape pressure before then exploiting the space.

Holm further demonstrated his ability to operate effectively in tighter areas later in the half, such as in the below example. 

Celtic Way:

Again, he looks to play forward quickly but with no option to progress vertically, Holm drops the shoulder to calmly, despite the close attention of an Athletic player, play a short pass to O’Riley. 

Celtic Way:

He then shows good movement to take up space between the lines to make an option for O’Riley to play forward. 

Celtic Way:

Composed when he receives with three Athletic players in close vicinity, he quickly pops the ball from O’Riley off to right-back Tony Ralston and Celtic get out down the right. Oh unfortunately then misplaced his pass up the line to Yang on this occasion. 

What was encouraging about these examples though, and his performance in possession more generally, was Holm’s ability to progress the ball effectively at a decent pace from the base of midfield. This is arguably an attribute that can be missing from Celtic’s midfield when McGregor doesn’t play, or if the captain is used further forward. 


Although Celtic were mostly on the front foot in the second half, Holm showed he wasn’t afraid to do the other side of the game either. One example of this came when Abada sold Holm a bit short with a pass in the 80th minute. 

Celtic Way:

Celtic Way:

Here, Holm showed good reactions and aggression, sliding in to win the loose ball cleanly.

Celtic Way:

Ensuring possession was retained, he then played the ball to Turnbull and Celtic were able to restart the attack. This was one of three duels Holm was involved in on Tuesday night, winning one other but losing the other. He also registered one interception. 


With only limited minutes in non-competitive matches, it is far too early to make any sweeping judgements about any of Celtic’s new recruits. However, there is no doubt Holm has shown up well so far, especially in the final warm-up game ahead of the season kicking off this weekend. Capable of playing a few central midfield positions, crucially, he looks like he may be a viable alternative at the number six, potentially helping ease some of the burden on McGregor in this regard. 

READ MORE: Celtic's four new boys assessed: Odin Thiago Holm poised to explode

It will be interesting to see how many opportunities Holm gets in the early part of the season. He still has areas to develop on, physically for example, but he has already shown enough quality to suggest he could play a significant role in the squad this season.