This week’s Celtic match doesn’t mean much.
You won’t see that statement often this season, but it’s true.
Neil Lennon’s Bhoys have already booked their place in the knockout stages of the Europa League as group winners, so the only thing on the line this Thursday away to Cluj is prize money.
Lennon has a great opportunity to rest some of his key stars for the match against our regular European foes and a great opportunity to get some minutes into the legs of players who haven’t started for quite a while.
There’s no reason to field a needlessly weak team, but there are some strong players who can still get the job done while building towards more regular action in the Celtic team.
These three are the stars I want to see most…
This one really goes without saying. We need to start seeing Griffiths back in starting lineups because any other alternative to Odsonne Edouard isn’t quite working.
There’s no reason to play the Frenchman this week when he can be kept fresh for Sunday’s match against Hibernian and the Scotland international badly needs the minutes.
The 29-year-old last started a match in August against Dunfermline in the League Cup and has managed just a handful of substitute appearances since.
Lennon played down his exclusion from the squad during Sunday’s match this week, so there doesn’t appear to be any underlying problem that would prevent his inclusion in the starting eleven in Romania.
The manager has already confirmed that both he and Vakoun Bayo ‘will be involved’ in Thursday’s match, but to what extent remains to be seen.
For me, Griffiths must start.
Bolingoli was a near-constant presence in Lennon’s team for the first few months of the season but after an injury is now in need of a bit of rebuilding at left-back if he’s to be fully ready for challenges ahead.
The Belgian hasn’t played in over a month. His last match came against Hibernian at Hampden in the League Cup semi-final, so he has a bit of catching up to do.
Returning to the bench for the final against Rangers, it appears he’s fit enough and ready to go.
Competition remains fierce in the position with Jonny Hayes and Greg Taylor playing well in recent weeks.
However, Bolingoli is first-choice and a return in a match that matters little to us would be an ideal way to re-introduce him.
Johnston is ready to be unleashed from the start of a Celtic match. Although he’s been a prominent performer off the bench in our last four matches, he actually hasn’t been included in a starting eleven for over three months.
With two goals and an assist in recent games, he’s bursting to get a bigger chance and that should come against Cluj.
Mohamed Elyounoussi could also do with building his fitness based on Sunday’s final, but Johnston, for me, has shown more desire and energy to get involved with Lennon’s team.
The youngster is a dynamic talent and nothing would make me happier than seeing him start in Romania and make another contribution like his effort against Rennes.