Celtic are in blistering form with six successive wins across competitions. They had a run of games at home but are set to travel to Netherlands on Thursday night to lock horns with AZ Alkmaar in the return leg of the Europa League play-off. A commanding 2-0 win at the Paradise has put the Hoops in the driver’s seat to qualify in the group stages of this prestigious competition.
AZ had their moments in the first leg fixture, but the mastery of Joe Hart denied them from earning a favourable outcome. They would look to make the most of the home advantage at AFAS Stadion and the Bhoys, nervy at times in the defensive third, must deliver yet another resolute display to avoid an upset ahead of Sunday’s Old Firm encounter.
Predicted 4-3-3 Celtic Lineup To Face AZ Alkmaar
Joe Hart’s heroics have restored stability between the sticks after a year-long conundrum with Scott Bain and Vasilis Barkas. The veteran Englishman has redefined himself overcoming the disappointment of the past few campaigns.
New signing Josip Juranovic is not registered for the midweek game and Anthony Ralston, therefore, is set to retain his first-team status down the right-hand side of Celtic’s defence. Stephen Welsh and Carl Starfelt are gradually settling down as the prime central defensive pairing after a frantic start with Nir Bitton in the heart of the backline. Greg Taylor remains the only able left fullback option who would keep hold of his role for the AZ clash.
Unlike defence, Ange Postecoglou is blessed with ample midfield options. Tom Rogic was rested against the Saints, but the in-form Aussie playmaker is expected to return in the middle of the park. Skipper Callum McGregor is irreplaceable for his experience, vision and all-round ability, whereas a hat-trick on Saturday afternoon must have cemented his place in their three-man midfield. The likes of James McCarthy, Ryan Christie and Ismaila Soro could be utilized at some stage if the situation demands.
Liel Abada has been exquisite on the wing as his pace, swift footwork and tricky skills would cause menace in AZ defence. The teenager is likely to operate from the right allowing versatile Kyogo Furuhashi to occupy the left-wing spot. Odsonne Edouard is back among goals after a slow start and should deliver once more irrespective of his Parkhead future. James Forrest might get involved as a ‘super sub’ if available for selection after missing out on the St. Mirren game.