Celtic, under Brendan Rodgers, have maintained their supremacy in domestic competitions and snapped up a ‘double treble’ over past two seasons. There hasn’t been much transfer activity yet from the Hoops, however, the current players are already engaged in a crucial European battle as the Scottish champions are set to take on Rosenborg BK, champions of the Norwegian first tier, on Wednesday night at Celtic Park in the first leg tie of the prestigious Champions League second qualifying round fixture.
The Bhoys have eased past the Armenian champions Alashkert by a comprehensive 6-0 margin (over two legs) in the previous round but might face a tricky test against the reigning Eliteserien winners due to an array of injuries, suspensions as well as the unavailability of a couple of first-team individuals following their World Cup commitments.
Celtic are sweating over the injury blow of their star centre-forward Moussa Dembele who is a major doubt with a hamstring strain. Leigh Griffiths, the other ‘number 9′, remains sidelined until early August through a thigh injury. Nir Bitton, Jonny Hayes and Lewis Morgan are ruled out for weeks with their respective injury concerns whereas veteran centre-back Marvin Compper is unlikely to recover from a groin strain before the Rosenborg outing. Jozo Simunovic’s sending off against Alashkert further narrows down Rodgers’ defensive options as Dedryck Boyata and Mikael Lustig are yet to be reintegrated with the squad due to an extended vacation following their participation in World Cup 2018.
Despite roping in Scott Bain on a Bosman deal in the aftermath of a successful loan spell last season, Rodgers has banked on veteran Craig Gordon between the sticks in the previous round and is expected to retain the same against Rosenborg this midweek.
Although the gaffer doesn’t have enough defensive options due to various unfavourable circumstances, a ‘back three’ is unlikely to be altered but must bank on youngest of options in central defence. Jack Hendry and Kristoffer Ajer will be fielded alongside academy prodigy Anthony Ralston in place of Simunovic who is suspended following his marching order against Alashkert in the return leg tie at Celtic Park.
James Forrest will continue to start the game from a deeper role down the right-hand flank in order to provide a defensive cover beside his attacking contributions. In-demand left-back Kieran Tierney will be utilized in a similar role on the opposite flank whereas skipper Scott Brown, versatile Callum McGregor and promising Olivier Ntcham will pull the strings from the middle of the park.
Odsonne Edouard, the club-record signing from Paris St-Germain, is set to spearhead the attacking line following the injury absence of both Dembele and Griffiths but might be accompanied by experienced Scott Sinclair who has lost a starting role of late and determined to re-establish his reputation at Parkhead.