European debut, midfield puzzle; Celtic predicted XI vs Bayer Leverkusen

By John McGinley

September 30, 2021

Celtic face Bayer Leverkusen in the UEFA Europa League tonight in a match that will determine whether the Bhoys have viable qualification ambitions or not.

After defeat to Real Betis on matchday 1, if the Germans come out on top at Celtic Park tonight, progressing to the knockout stages of this competition will be incredibly difficult.

A stellar Celtic performance is needed, which won’t be easy given the injury and squad problems facing Ange Postecoglou right now.

Photo by ANP Sport via Getty Images

Still, the manager needs to get his team selection spot on and there are a number of calls that could go either way.

First off, we know Joe Hart will start. The goalkeeper has been one of our most successful signings this season and his presence will undoubtedly be required against the Germans.

On the right flank, expect Anthony Ralston to start in defence. He’ll be aided in stopping the away side with the help of Carl Starfelt and Cameron Carter-Vickers.

“This is a special Leverkusen team” | Derek Rae previews a huge night for Celtic

“This is a special Leverkusen team” | Derek Rae previews a huge night for Celtic
67 Hail Hail (Youtube)

Left-back is a position that has the possibility to go a number of ways tonight. With the absence of Greg Taylor and Josip Juranovic, as well as the ineligibility of Boli Bolingoli, Postecoglou isn’t left with much choice. Adam Montgomery could be selected but I could see a big European debut for Liam Scales on the cards.

My reasoning for that is because Montgomery was named on the bench at the weekend due to his ability to make an attacking impact later in the game. I could see the manager repeating that tonight. Scales looked composed and confident last week, albeit against Raith Rovers.

In midfield, there’s a bit of a puzzle to solve too. James McCarthy is available despite picking up a knock at the weekend, so I think that’s who the manager will go with, alongside David Turnbull and Tom Rogic.

Photo by ANP Sport via Getty Images

Some may be screaming at the idea of this threesome being selected again, but I reckon it’s what the manager will do. Ismaila Soro lacks midfield discipline and the Bhoys boss won’t want to risk the long-term fitness of Callum McGregor from the start.

In attack, despite his dreadful Sunday display, I think the manager will persevere with Albian Ajeti. Flanked by Jota and Liel Abada, we’ll just have to hope he has his shooting boots on this time.

I’ve run through other options in my head all week, including the thought of Abada or Jota through the middle, but Ajeti’s selection continues to feel the most likely without upsetting the balance of the team.

Go for it Bhoys!

Your predicted XI in full: Hart, Ralston, Carter-Vickers, Starfelt, Scales, McCarthy, Turnbull, Rogic, Abada, Jota, Ajeti.

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