The European misery continues for Celtic as they suffered a 2-0 defeat against Feyenoord in their opening Champions League outing. However, they remain favourites to defend the Premiership crown and the gaffer Brendan Rodgers should demand a reaction from his men in the upcoming fixture against Livingston.
The weekend tie at Almondvale won’t be a stroll in the park for the champions of Scotland. David Martindale has often troubled the big guns in the recent past and his Livi side is capable enough to cause an upset despite a slow start so far this term. Meanwhile, Nat Phillips’ fresh injury blow could further decimate the Hoops in the heart of the backline.
Predicted 4-3-3 Celtic Lineup To Face Livingston
Joe Hart saved Igor Paixao’s spot-kick, but he should have done a lot better to stop Calvin Stengs’ free-kick that earned Feyenoord a lead late in the first half. The veteran Englishman must exhibit his composure against Livingston and aim for his fourth successive league clean sheet on Saturday afternoon.
Amid the uncertainty over Phillips’ availability, the Celts now have only two senior centre-backs Gustaf Lagerbielke and Liam Scales available for the Livi clash. Cameron Carter-Vickers, Maik Nawrocki, Stephen Welsh and Yuki Kobayashi are already sidelined with their respective injury woes. Right fullback Anthony Ralston might get the nod ahead of Alistair Johnston, but the left-back role belongs to Greg Taylor who must retain his first-team status over Alexandro Bernabei. Tomoki Iwata could be utilized as a makeshift centre-half amid the ongoing crisis in deep defence.
The return of Reo Hatate is a boost for the Bhoys who now have ample depth as well as quality in the middle of the park. Summer signings Odin Thiago Holm, Paulo Bernardo and Hyeok-Kyu Kwon are gradually attuning to the grind and demands of Scottish football. But they are unlikely to grab a start instantly considering the influence and impact of skipper Callum McGregor, Greg O’Riley and David Turnbull.
O’Riley and Hatate should keep hold of their ‘number 8’ spots. Also, McGregor is irreplaceable as a ‘number 6’ for his profound experience, vision and ability to control the show from the base of a three-man midfield.
Kyogo Furuhashi hardly had an impact against Feyenoord, but his exquisite domestic form makes him the automatic choice for the ‘number 9’ role. Daizen Maeda should operate from the left, whereas an injury to Liel Abada could see Hyun-Jun Yang occupy the right-wing slot ahead of Luis Palma, Mikey Johnston and James Forrest. Hyun-Gyu Oh might grab some minutes as the understudy to Furuhashi high up the pitch.