Midfield minefield, options in attack; Celtic Predicted XI v Raith Rovers

By Euan Davidson

September 23, 2021

If you were Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou, you’d be eyeing Raith Rovers as an opportunity, no?

While the expectations are sky-high for this one, there’s also something of a chance for the Bhoys boss. Some players haven’t had the requisite time to gel with their teammates yet. Others, so early into the season, are racking up minutes and need a rest.

Meanwhile, you’ve got a few options returning from injury and potential debuts to hand out. Equally, though, you’ve got a chance to build the understanding between some projected regular starters.

So, it’s a bit of a complicated one, this. Not least because the likes of McGregor and Kyogo are still out, but also because it’s still so early in the 21-22 campaign.

Yet, a range of selection quagmires is staring the Celtic boss in the face.

Now, we’ll never tell the Celtic manager what to do, or second-guess him. But he has said before that squad rotation is important, and his hints at future team selections in the past offer some information on how he could set Celtic up tonight.

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Here we go then: our Celtic Predicted XI to face Raith Rovers at Paradise this evening.

Celtic v Raith Rovers: a chance for a defence to build momentum

Perhaps this is the most important bit. If Celtic are to avoid an embarrassment tonight, having a reliable defence is important. In the context of cup games in the past, you could’ve foreseen young players getting the nod.

Not tonight, though. Instead, barring one selection, we think Celtic are going to go with experience. Part of that will be an attempt to build the understanding between Cameron Carter-Vickers and Carl Starfelt.

Both have the requisite physical tools to handle Raith Rovers. However, what they lack, currently, is that on-pitch relationship a centre-back pairing needs.

Add Josip Juranovic to that. He’s been shuttled from right to left, and back again, since joining Celtic. But if we’re going to see the best of him going forward, we need him to establish himself as the first-choice right-back. Tonight, we reckon he’ll get the opportunity to do so.

Boli Bolingoli was adequate against Livingston in Greg Taylor’s absence. However, Adam Montgomery surely represents the future of that position, and giving him and Juranovic carte blanche to roam against lower-tier opposition would bode better for what’s to come.

Leading them will be reliable stopper Joe Hart, who’ll be desperate for a clean sheet after conceding 5 in his last 2 games.

Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group via Getty Images

Celtic’s midfield: A headache for Postecoglou

The midfield is less clear-cut.

Ismaila Soro wasn’t overwhelmingly popular after the Betis game, despite keeping star man Nabil Fekir comparably quiet. When he came on against Livingston, though, he provided what was probably Ajeti’s best chance of the game.

He played it square to the Swiss striker, who turned and launched a rasping shot at the Livi ‘keeper. Simple as it was, it was a sign of what Soro can bring; intensity, directness.

But James McCarthy clearly needs more minutes. He just wasn’t the player we know he can be at the weekend.

Meanwhile, you’ve got another problem further ahead. David Turnbull and Tom Rogic just couldn’t get it done against Livingston. Whether they’re the midfield duo for Postecoglou long-term really is unclear.

So, maybe it’s time for a bit of freshness. I think it’ll be Soro, Henderson and Turnbull who start this one.

Ewan Henderson could well have been loaned out this summer. Instead, he’s been on the fringes of the first-team, even named on the bench against Real Betis.

Rogic just looks absolutely knackered. Given his international commitments for Australia, it’s no wonder why. To get the best out of him, it’s probably not possible to play him twice a week; that’s pretty much always been the case.

Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group via Getty Images

A familiar face for Celtic against Raith Rovers

While Jota has been sporadically excellent in his first trio of Celtic games, Mikey Johnston is next up in the pecking order. Having returned from injury to make the bench against Livi, the meeting with Raith Rovers seems like an excellent opportunity for the Academy graduate to get some minutes.

On the right, Forrest isn’t back yet, and Abada will be looking to improve upon a middling performance at the weekend. So, too, will Albian Ajeti, who went scoreless after hitting 3 in his previous 2.

Giakoumakis will probably feature at some stage, but not from the start. That said, there’s still plenty of firepower here to see off John McGlynn’s side. The pace on each flank is potentially scary, and Ajeti will surely have the muscle to make an impact and unsettle defenders.

Read more: Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou buoyed by “constant” pressure and expectation