Celtic are back: our Predicted XI against Sheffield Wednesday

By Euan Davidson

July 6, 2021

We’re nearly there, folks; it’s Celtic Predicted XI time again already.

And what a different-looking team it’ll be since the last time we did this. On that occasion, we referenced Prince and told John Kennedy to go crazy. This time, the Predicted XI is going to be radically different, the result of some guess work, some strong rumour and the knowledge that, well; it’s a friendly.

How Celtic actually start against Sheffield Wednesday is anyone’s guess, really. Isn’t it? We’ve got a brand new manager, our captain is gone, all of our loan players have returned from whence they came. There are two new players, a series of loanees returning to contention, and Academy prospects on the cusp.

So, with that in mind, you’re not allowed to return to this if it’s way off-base. Alternatively, if the majority of it is correct, it’s another win for us.

Here’s how we think Ange Postecoglou will line up the Bhoys tomorrow. No guarantees, terms and conditions apply.

Between the sticks, a Barky renaissance?

Whisper it, but Vasilis Barkas could have a really good season.

Christened “Barky” by his compatriot Ange Postecoglou, Barkas has been impressing in training. It’ll be interesting how to see how he adapts from a manager who openly questions his ability in public, to one who seems to be beloved by his players. Psychology really is very complex, isn’t it?

Most likely the starter when we face FC Midtjylland, Barkas endured a difficult 20-21, as everyone knows. Yet, neither of his replacements were remotely convincing. Scott Bain has never seemed like a Celtic #1, while Conor Hazard remains questionable. It’s also possible we’ll see him loaned out.

So, in ya come, Barky.

Stephen Welsh / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The Celtic Predicted XI defence; some names old and new

This was the oddest bit of the whole line-up, but I ended up going with the players that made the most sense. Looking at training videos, it’s probably a bit of a cop-out, but picking players who we know have trained makes the most sense for a Predicted XI at this point.

So, enter Anthony Ralson, Osaze Urhoghide, Stephen Welsh and Adam Montgomery.

Anthony Ralston seems destined to stay at Celtic forever. While this isn’t necessarily the biggest test of his abilities, he needs some good performances. If he’s to be trusted as a squad option, then it’s important he takes these chances. Stephen Welsh has been Celtic’s poster Bhoy for a kit that’s dividing opinion, and he’s also been speaking to the press. It seems likely he’ll start.

Maybe, even, as captain. But again, it’s a pre-season friendly, so don’t put too much stock into that.

Osaze Urhoghide, for narrative purposes, has to be in there. Nir Bitton could be the alternative, but as a natural defender, it’d be great to see what Urhoghide is capable of, even early on. And as for Adam Montgomery? Greg Taylor isn’t going to be ready to start yet. Bolingoli is a massive question mark.

A new look midfield

We’re expecting two central midfielders and a number ten in Postecoglou’s first match. With that in mind, Liam Shaw has spoken about playing tomorrow, and for him, the personal stakes are high. Nothing would set him off better than an impressive display against his old club.

Alongside him, it’d be great to see what Kerr McInroy can do. The former Dunfermline loanee has been an Academy mainstay, but really needs some kind of first-team exposure to quicken his development. Having been prominently featured in the pre-season build-up, it’d be cool to see what the former youth captain can do.

Ahead of them, in the number 10 role, Luca Connell must surely start. The fans want it, we want it, and after some stunning displays for Queen’s Park, it’s just time. This will be comfortable opposition for him, having impressed with Bolton Wanderers in the Championship.

Celtic youngster Mikey Johnston / (Photo by Craig Foy/SNS Group via Getty Images)

The most exciting bit of a Celtic Predicted XI? Who’s to say…

So, that leaves us with 3 players left. That’s if my maths is right, which is no guarantee.

And it’s in the attacking positions. Left and right wing, with one striker up top. Who will they be? Well, it stands to reason that it’ll be Mikey Johnston, Karamoko Dembele and Albian Ajeti.

Is that purely to reinforce an article I wrote about players we’re excited to see? Again, who’s to say. But it makes sense; MJ needs plenty of game-time to add match fitness. Having had a decent rest, he’s got to be nearing a first-team return, even in the context of a friendly.

Luca Connell can deputise on the left flank if needs be, but we still desperately need numbers in that area of the pitch. On the right, Karamoko will take precedence over James Forrest, who isn’t long back from Euro 2020 [Sky Sports]. Expect a Forrest cameo late on maybe, but Dembele’s surely got to start this one.

And up front, Albian Ajeti. Having shed some weight over the summer, and not being picked for Switzerland, he has plenty to prove. Again, goals in a pre-season game don’t mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, but if he can kick on then it gives Celtic another option.

READ MORE: Could we see this guy in pre-season?