Eddy's back, flying wingers: Celtic Predicted XI v Livingston
Don’t know about you, but I hate when Celtic are playing Livingston.
Home or away, they’re a team that seem hell-bent on causing us problems. This season, in our 3 meetings, we’ve only beaten them once. In seasons prior, even when the league was won at a canter, they’ve caused public apologies from Christopher Jullien and gritted teeth.
Granted, we’re playing at home and not the plastic pitch of the wonderfully titled Tony Macaroni Arena. That’s an obvious advantage, given how awful that playing surface is. But David Martindale is a manager who seems to believe he’s got a handle on the Hoops.
They won’t fear us. So it’s imperative that John Kennedy plays his strongest side, while battling the deficiencies which have cost us in prior meetings. Specifically, set-pieces, and being beaten on the counter.
While tomorrow’s match might have been an afterthought given all of this week’s Eddie Howe drama, it’s still important. If a new manager is coming in this week, their performance against Livi tomorrow could give them a future at the club. Or not, depending on how things go.
So here’s our Celtic predicted XI to face Livingston tomorrow at Paradise.
No reason to change much: Celtic predicted XI begins with familiar names
Weird as it is to say, Celtic’s defence has actually been… good?
In the last six matches, we’ve only conceded twice [WhoScored?], once against Ross County and another in the draw with Rangers. Considering how bereft of confidence this Celtic defence were hitherto the last month or so, that’s a pretty remarkable turnaround.
There seems to be a genuinely settled defence, and somewhat remarkably, it starts with Scott Bain. John Kennedy has kept his faith in the ex-Dundee ‘keeper, and in fairness, it’s worked. He’s been working on his distribution, as exemplified by his 82% pass completion rate against Rangers.
More comfortable with the ball at his feet, Bain has been starting moves more readily, with smarter passes. In times past, he’s humphed the ball forward without direction. So Bain stays.
He’ll be behind a familiar-looking back four of Diego Laxalt, Stephen Welsh, Kristoffer Ajer and Jonjoe Kenny. Laxalt has been preferred since Taylor picked up a knock. Even though the Scotland left-back should be ready to return, we think JK will pick his side based on form. For that reason, it’s got to be the Uruguayan.
It might make more sense to play Taylor, thinking long-term, but Laxalt has clearly impressed Kennedy.
Welsh and Ajer’s partnership has been more solid than anything we’ve seen so far. Christopher Jullien has barely had a chance to make an impact this season, so any overall view of our defence is skewered by that. However, Welsh is looking increasingly assured as his appearances increase. As for right-back, well it’s a no-brainer.
A return to last season’s shape, although the names remain
In midfield, we’re expecting John Kennedy to attempt to use wingers far up the pitch. So to keep things ticking over, the trusty duo of Callum McGregor and Scott Brown will surely start. Conversely to the Greg Taylor argument, it seems like the long-term development of Ismaila Soro is on the back-burner, for now.
Obviously, we won’t get to see Scott Brown too many more times in Celtic colours. Brown has had a decent rest and will surely captain the side.
We envisage Brown playing deeper to accommodate McGregor and David Turnbull to play higher up the pitch. This was a tough choice, because Ryan Christie has played better in recent matches. As we’ve explored, he gets a heck of a lot of criticism despite playing objectively well.
Turnbull can play in a slightly more withdrawn role, though, and the use of wingers who like attacking inside areas and bylines means that an out-and-out number 10 isn’t entirely necessary.
As for wingers, well…
An attacking Celtic trio which should put Livingston to sword
If you were writing a list of our most impactful players over the last two seasons, you’d surely feature Mohamed Elyounoussi, Odsonne Edouard and James Forrest.
Against Falkirk, Forrest was unplayable at times. Even though he’s approaching 30, he still plays with boyish enthusiasm. He was on the left, right and in the middle against the Bairns, breaking the deadlock early in the second half.
He looked match fit, to the extent that you could imagine him wanting to play another 90 minutes after the full-time whistle. That energy is something we’ve lacked this season, and God, how we’ve missed it. To compliment him on the other wing, Elyounoussi surely deserves a start, having starred against Rangers and later on against Falkirk.
Up front, Odsonne Edouard will be raring to go after his U21 exploits. Oddly, the U21s tournament’s latter stages are staggered, so he’s available to lead the line against Livi.
It’s not just that he’s good, it’s that the other options are far from inspiring. Leigh Griffiths hasn’t looked particularly sharp at any point this season. Ajeti and Klimala are their own several-thousand-word articles. Edouard is so far and away our best striker that it’s genuinely concerning.