38-cap international returns, 24-goal front three; Celtic team news and Predicted XI v Hearts

By Euan Davidson

December 2, 2021

Celtic have some exciting team news before heading out onto the Paradise turf to face Hearts tonight.

As reported yesterday, Ange Postecoglou confirmed that Nir Bitton and Tom Rogic will be available to face the Jambos. Although Celtic have been winning games, Rogic’s lack of availability had hampered the team’s creative side.

There’s been no update on Carl Starfelt, however. Also, a timeline for Christopher Jullien remains a mystery. Yesterday, Ange said he wasn’t sure when the French defender would return.

Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

It’s a massive game – they all are – tonight under the lights. Hearts arrive sitting in third place, with designs on leapfrogging the Bhoys into second.

Ange Postecoglou wasn’t particularly keen on talking about the league table. He’s intent on making Celtic a relentlessly successful outfit, regardless of the opposition.

Hearts arrive at Celtic Park off the back of a win against St Mirren [BBC], but do so without star midfielder Beni Beningime [Edinburgh Evening News]. The threats of Liam Boyce, Gary Mackay-Steven and set-piece specialist Stephen Kingsley.

With Celtic unable to lose any more ground on top spot, it’s a crucial three points at stake tonight.

Rogic returns, as Celtic prepare for hectic December | Hearts Preview with Scott McDonald

Rogic returns, as Celtic prepare for hectic December | Hearts Preview with Scott McDonald
67 Hail Hail (Youtube)

Celtic Predicted XI v Hearts

Naturally, it’ll be Joe Hart that starts in goal for the Bhoys tonight. In front and to his left, Josip Juranovic will keep his place in the team, with Stephen Welsh and Cameron Carter-Vickers as the central pairing.

On the right, Anthony Ralston could probably use a rest, but none will be forthcoming. He starts tonight. The Scotland defender will need to be on top form to stop Hearts utilising the pace of Mackay-Steven.

The midfield is where it perhaps gets more debatable. We’ve got 38-cap Nir Bitton starting, coming back from a brief injury spell. The Israeli international has shone in his preferred position, in defensive midfield. That extra security could help Celtic against a strong attacking side in Hearts.

Photo by Laszlo Szirtesi/Getty Images

In the central midfield slots, Callum McGregor will be alongside David Turnbull. The former Motherwell midfielder has laboured in recent games, but it would be a surprise to see Tom Rogic start this one. He didn’t come on against Aberdeen, and needs to more gradually build up sharpness.

James Forrest likes this fixture. Against Hearts, he’s scored 8 and set up 5 more [Transfermarkt]. Adding to that, on his march to 100 goals and 100 assists for Celtic, will be his aim tonight.

The lovable duo of Kyogo Furuhashi and Jota just can’t be left out. They’ll comprise two parts of the front-three.

Celtic Predicted XI v Hearts

Read more: The hidden qualities of Josip Juranovic that give Celtic an unlikely emergency option