2 Euro debuts, squad shortages laid bare; Predicted Celtic XI vs Midtjylland
Ange Postecoglou will take charge of a competitive Celtic match for the first time tomorrow night against Midtjylland at Parkhead.
The contest will see the Hoops take on the Danes in our UCL second qualifying round tie.
With the away goals scrapped, we could see an open contest too in what will hopefully be an exciting introduction to life at Celtic for the new manager.
Pre-season hasn’t gone exactly how we would’ve liked. We’ve failed to win our last two, but more importantly, we’ve suffered several concerning injuries that will leave us shorthanded tomorrow night.
Of course, that’s not the only reason we’re lacking depth in key positions. Celtic simply haven’t strengthened appropriately enough heading into this one. And tomorrow night you’ll see that to be the case when Postecoglou names what’s surprisingly our strongest XI at the moment.
And it all starts at the back.
Celtic defence has a massive challenge ahead
At the back, we’ve failed to add to two positions that were in desperate need of strengthening.
The centre-back and right-back areas have been glaringly worrying positions in our squad stretching back to last season. With Kris Ajer not in the UEFA squad either, we’re even shorter than we were at the end of last season.
In front of Vasilis Barkas, then, it looks as though we’re going to have to go with Stephen Welsh and Nir Bitton. Anthony Ralston will get the nod at right-back as Greg Taylor takes up his pot on the left.
Some will say that Liam Shaw and Osaze Urhoghide can play at centre-back. However, I don’t believe either will be thrown into this one. Not from the start considering some of the more experienced options available in their positions.
Celtic to provide 2 youngsters with European debuts
Celtic’s central-midfield will have a much more reliable and stronger look to it. Postecoglou can be thankful that he actually has options for his engine room.
Olivier Ntcham’s omission was a surprise, but I would expect Ismaila Soro to be playing alongside Callum McGregor as the two holding midfielders.
David Turnbull has done enough in pre-season to merit the number 10 role. It’s also great to have the likes of Tom Rogic and Ryan Christie available to call upon too for this one. We need all the depth we can get.
But tomorrow night will also see two European debuts for the club. Down the right flank, Liel Abada initially looked like featuring. However, he hasn’t been included in the UCL squad. With James Forrest and Karamoko Dembele also out, Owen Moffat looks like being given his first competitive appearance and in Europe too.
Meanwhile, Celtic simply have no more options on the left flank. Mohamed Elyounoussi is gone whilst Mikey Johnston appears to still be sidelined. Young Adam Montgomery has in the past played further forward at youth level. Postecoglou even tried it out in pre-season. And we expect Montgomery to be given a run-out in Europe for the first time in a Celtic jersey. Montgomery and Moffat on either flank will provide our European debutants for the evening.
Odsonne Edouard starts; Albian Ajeti to make second-half impact
I don’t believe Postecoglou will go with two up top tomorrow. Not with such inexperience at the back.
Therefore, expect the lone striker to be playing and expect that man to be Odsonne Edouard.
Albian Ajeti has had a promising pre-season with two goals in four games. However, the fact is that Edouard is still capable of offering you that extra bit of magic in the final third. If Postecoglou doesn’t select him, he’s making a rod for his own back.
Not that Ajeti won’t get on the pitch. Chances are we’ll either be looking to put the tie to bed or looking for a way back into it in the second half. That’s where we’ll need an additional goalscoring threat. As of yet, the only man we have for that is indeed Albian.
But the smart money is on Edouard starting. He’s been here for the entirety of pre-season. If he’s available, he simply isn’t getting dropped.
Yet the squad shortages are clear to see as Celtic have let the manager down by failing to strengthen in key areas. All we can do is hope it doesn’t come back to bite us over the next eight days.