Brendan Rodgers has returned to Parkhead to succeed Ange Postecoglou as the new Celtic chief. He has made a strong start with back-to-back league wins against Ross County and Aberdeen, and the upbeat Hoops will set their League Cup defence in motion on Sunday afternoon.
While the Bhoys are set to travel to East Ayrshire to lock horns with Kilmarnock, the confidence must be sky-high in the Killie camp who defeated Rangers at Rugby Park in their Premiership opener. Derek McInnes guided them to retain their top-flight status earlier this year, but he must script an upset against the reigning champions to seek revenge for last season’s semifinal defeat at Hampden Park.
Predicted 4-3-3 Celtic Lineup To Face Kilmarnock
Joe Hart has been the Celts’ ‘number 1’ across competitions and the veteran Englishman is expected to keep his place between the sticks ahead of Benjamin Siegrist and Scott Bain.
Although the Glasgow giants have bolstered themselves in the defensive third, injuries to Cameron Carter-Vickers, Stephen Welsh, Yuki Kobayashi and the summer signing Gustaf Lagerbielke could see Liam Scales gaining a rare opportunity to slot in the heart of the backline alongside another new addition Maik Nawrocki. Alistair Johnston is back in training recovering from an ankle injury, but the weekend tie would be too soon for the Canadian to reclaim his right-back role. Anthony Ralston should feature from the right, also Greg Taylor is likely to get the nod over Alexandro Bernabei down the left-hand side.
Skipper Callum McGregor has cemented his status as a ‘number 6’. He would orchestrate the game from the deep with his vision, distribution and game-reading attributes. Reo Hatate’s injury is a worrying sign, however, the gaffer should stick with David Turnbull and Matt O’Riley as the box-to-box options. Odin Thiago Holm, Tomoki Iwata and the summer recruit Kwon Hyeok-kyu could be introduced as the second-half substitutes.
Celtic have a lethal attacking force with ample depth and quality across the frontline. Despite having the likes of Kyogo Furuhashi, Daizen Maeda, Liel Abada, James Forrest, Sead Haksabanovic and Oh Hyeon-gyu in their ranks, the Hoops have bolstered themselves by tying down Marco Tilio and Yang Hyun-jun. Nevertheless, Rodgers is tipped to stick with Postecoglou’s preferred trio of Furuhashi, Abada and Maeda who not only hold great numbers high up the pitch but also offer tremendous work ethic by contributing to their build-up play.