CHRISTOPHER JULLIEN’S colossal performance in Rome last week, as well as his match-winning intervention against Lazio a fortnight ago, showed that he is a man for the big occasion, and that he could more than hold his own against such vaunted opposition. Such has been his progress in his short time at Celtic though, it begs the question of just how good he can go on to be.

Comparisons with Virgil Van Dijk are perhaps as inevitable as they are unwelcome, with the Frenchman out to plot his own path in the game without such weighty expectations hanging around his neck.

His manager, Neil Lennon, famously remarked that he thought something was wrong with Van Dijk when he first saw him in training, as he couldn’t understand how Celtic had managed to land him. Jullien was more of a slow-burner, taking a little time to get up to full speed, but now he is impressing Lennon in a similar way as the world’s most expensive defender did when he first laid eyes upon him.

While Lennon doesn’t think comparisons between the two stack up, he has challenged the current rock at the heart of the Celtic defence to strive to be as good as one of his predecessors.

"Van Dijk is Van Dijk,” Lennon said. “I want Jullien to use him as a benchmark to try and get as far up the football scale as he possibly can because he has really good attributes to do that.

“I thought [on Thursday] night he was colossal for us, he read the game brilliantly. I don't know how many interceptions, clearances he made or aerial challenges he won, and he is a threat now in the other box as well.

"I liked everything I saw about him in terms of the player [when we scouted him], but would he suit the way we play? He was a dominant header of the ball, which was something I thought we lacked. “For Toulouse, he looked proficient with both feet, we knew he wasn't dynamic in terms of sprinting, but he could read the game very well and there was a composure about him.

“He's in a really good place and what we are seeing now is everything we thought he would turn into and he's got leadership qualities as well.”

Lennon and his head of football operations Nick Hammond will look to unearth more gems in the January transfer window, and the Celtic manager believes that their progression to the last 32 of the Europa League will make their job easier in terms of selling the club to potential recruits. Not that he is planning wholesale changes, as he very much buys into the mantra of not fixing something that isn’t broken.

“In terms of signing players in January, us being in the knock-out stage is a huge carrot for players,” he said.

“I think we’re quite relaxed about things. We now have European football after Christmas and there is already an opportunity for the team to win a trophy. The players are full of belief and playing well and it’s very rare that clubs spend big money in January. Plus, we’re able to fend off any offers for our players we want to keep anyway.

“So, without tempting fate, we can move into January in a very strong position.”

The only real area of concern for Lennon is his team’s over-reliance on Odsonne Edouard, with Leigh Griffiths still fighting his way back to fitness and Vakoun Issouf Bayo also struggling with injury. Lennon admits he worries about the workload being placed on his French under-21 star.

"You've got to,” he said. “You forget he's 21.

“Again, he did a multitude of work on Thursday night, on and off the ball, so he's not going to play every game from here to the end of January, that's for sure.

"We'll look at it depending on injuries. We'll see how Bayo is in the next few weeks. There may be one or two positions that we try to strengthen but I wouldn't say that many. I don't think we'll do a huge amount of business in January.”

Edouard may well be pressed into action again today then as Motherwell come calling to Celtic Park, with Lennon expecting a stern challenge as his side come back down to earth after their heroics on Thursday night.

Celtic saw off the Steelmen by five goals to two in the first meeting between the sides this season at Fir Park, but he says the game wasn’t as straightforward as the scoreline suggests.

“We didn’t start the game well,” he said. “They were the better team for the first 15-20 minutes. “They have got some great results this year and I think consistently over the last year or so Motherwell have been there or thereabouts.

“[Stephen Robinson] has had them in cup finals and he has had to keep evolving the team because he sells his best players every year.

“You think of (Louis) Moult going and people like (Cedric) Kipre. We were going to take (David) Turnbull and they lost him through injury.

“So, he has done a brilliant job. They gave Rangers plenty of think about at Ibrox a couple of weeks ago. The game again is going to be one for us to think about.

“We want to win it, but we are coming up against a team who, apart maybe from the Aberdeen result, have been playing very, very well.”