Defender's big opportunity, debut chances; Celtic Predicted XI vs Aberdeen

By John McGinley

July 31, 2022

Celtic kick off the new Scottish Premiership season at home to Aberdeen this afternoon, hoping to lay down a marker for the weeks ahead with a strong performance and three points.

Celtic Park is sold out with a full-stadium display planned, a flag to unfurl, and lots of excitement to go around after a sharp pre-season period.

There have been a number of transfer additions over the summer, but what kind of team will Ange Postecoglou go with on the opening day? Here’s our best go at the manager’s eleven this afternoon…

WARSAW, POLAND – 2022/07/20: Ange Postecoglou coach of Celtic FC seen during the friendly match between Legia Warszawa and Celtic FC at Marshal Jozef Pilsudski Legia Warsaw Municipal Stadium. This match was the last in the career of Artur Boruc (the goalkeeper played in the past for Legia Warszawa and Celtic FC). Final score; Legia Warszawa 2:2 Celtic FC. (Photo by Mikolaj Barbanell/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Despite the arrival of Ben Siegrist, Joe Hart is almost guaranteed to start against the Dons having been the consistent starting pick throughout the summer. Hart’s game is evolving at Celtic and he’s playing higher than ever before, so it’ll be interesting to see how that pans out in competitive games. Siegrist is waiting in the wings if it’s not working out but, for now, the position is Hart’s.

A defensive four of Josip Juranovic, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Stephen Welsh, Greg Taylor looks to be the most sensible shout from the options available but it does mean a couple of players miss out.

Anthony Ralston has had a fine pre-season but Juranovic is the long-term prime pick there and it makes sense to start the Croatian as he gets up to full match sharpness.

Alexandro Bernabei is also available on the left but Taylor looks best suited for the Postecoglou system at the moment with the Argentinian still adjusting to life in Scotland. Bernabei could make a debut from the bench.

It’s a particularly big day for 22-year-old Stephen Welsh who has only started three competitive games in 2022. Today is a big chance for him to show he is a viable first-team squad pick over the coming season with transfer links appearing and kind words from the manager popping up in the press.

In midfield, Callum McGregor will start in that deeper midfield role, though the chances of a substitute appearance and debut for Aaron Mooy are high, especially if the game is going well for Celtic in the second half.

Photo by PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images

Ahead of McGregor, Reo Hatate has been one of the stand-outs in pre-season so he’ll be expected to start, with the other midfield spot up for grabs between Matt O’Riley and David Turnbull. I’ve gone for O’Riley here but I wouldn’t be surprised with a Turnbull call either – the Scotland international has looked impressive this summer.

I like the Daizen Maeda and Jota threats on each wing. Both offer different attributes to the Celtic attack and we have talents such as Liel Abada on the bench ready to come on if needed.

In attack, Kyogo Furuhashi gets the nod for me over Giorgos Giakoumakis. Both strikers are fan favourites and it’s hard to leave one out but the one-two punch of Kyogo giving Aberdeen the runaround before Giorgos batters them in the second half could be thrilling to watch again.

Your predicted XI in full is: Hart, Juranovic, Carter-Vickers, Welsh, Taylor, McGregor, Hatate, O’Riley, Jota, Maeda, Kyogo.