Reigning Premiership champions Celtic didn’t have the greatest of starts to the league season this time but ensured that they found their way back on track not too long after the commencement. Currently sitting just a point off Rangers at the top of the table, a single slip-up from either side would be enough to tip the scales in the other’s favour. This weekend will present either side with exactly that opportunity, as the two Scottish giants are set to face off at Celtic Park on Saturday, in what will be the first Old Firm derby of the new campaign.
Celtic are coming into this fixture on the back of a smash and grab 2-0 win over St.Johnstone in the first week of October, as two late goals from second-half substitutes Leigh Griffiths and Patryk Klimala proved to be the difference between the sides. Rangers, on the other hand, ran out comfortable 2-0 winners against Ross County, as skipper James Tavernier continued his quite sensational goalscoring form in the league. A home win would see Celtic go clear of Rangers by two points with a game in hand, while an away victory would make Steven Gerrard’s side the out-and-out league leaders.
Which Celtic Players Are Unavailable For Selection?
For starters, both Mikey Johnston and James Forrest are facing extended spells on the sidelines, having suffered what appear to be long-term knocks. Although the latter’s absence would’ve been a concern, the developments over the last few weeks have put Celtic in a tough spot. Albian Ajeti is a massive doubt with injury concerns raised over him as well. Most worryingly though, Ryan Christie, Nir Bitton, Hatem Elhamed and Odsonne Edouard are all under quarantined isolation because of the Coronavirus. With both first-choice strikers out of contention, it’ll be interesting to see what Lennon conjures up for this tie.
Here Is The Best Lineup That Neil Lennon Can Field For Celtic Vs Rangers:
The Best Lineup That Neil Lennon Can Field For Celtic Vs Rangers
Vasilis Barkas was one of the few internationals in the Celtic squad who was an unused substitute in his international match. Expect the Greek keeper to return to the starting eleven for Neil Lennon’s side though. In front of him is where the manager could be forced to make changes. Nir Bitton has been the in-form centre-half over the last few weeks, but his assured absence means that Lennon would be forced to bring Christopher Jullien into the side to replace him. He will be joined in defence by the usual suspects of Brighton loanee Shane Duffy and promising youngster Kristoffer Ajer.
This is one area of the pitch where the Celts remain largely unaffected by all the player absences. Hatem Elhamed’s absence means that Jeremie Frimpong is guaranteed to start down the right side, while Greg Taylor’s place on the left could be under scrutiny as well. Whether or not Neil Lennon thinks this Old Firm derby comes too soon for Diego Laxalt remains to be seen, but if up to full fitness, there’s no reason the former AC Milan man shouldn’t start. Callum McGregor and Scott Brown are both likely to keep their places, but Olivier Ntcham could come into the side as the third midfielder, ahead of summer signing David Turnbull.
This is the area of the pitch where Lennon should most be worried about. While the injury to Odsonne Edouard wasn’t received with too much shock, the potential absence of Ajeti from the picture as well does put them in a sticky spot. The other two striking options haven’t played any degree of regular football, and depending on either of them could have dire consequences. Despite this, with a frustrating lack of options, Neil Lennon could be tempted to go with veteran striker Leigh Griffiths leading the line. The Scot is likely to be partnered up with Norwegian trickster Mohamed Elyounoussi.
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