It has been a long time coming, but Celtic finally return to Scottish Cup action in Sunday’s semi-final against Aberdeen.
It seems like a lifetime ago when the draw was made – in March, after Celtic beat St Johnstone in the quarter-final – and the game was originally meant to be played in April, with a capacity crowd. Of course, for reasons that everybody knows about, the game will now be played in November, in an empty Hampden Park.
It will be an odd atmosphere no doubt, but that doesn’t take away from the importance of the game to Neil Lennon’s side. A quadruple treble is on the line. As is a return to winning ways, as Celtic are currently four games without a win in all competitions.
With that in mind, here is the team we predict that Neil Lennon will select to start the game for Celtic at Hampden Park:
Manager will keep faith in shot stopper
In goals, there has been perhaps an unexpected change in the last few weeks. Vasilis Barkas has lost his place in the side, after suffering a slight injury. We expect his replacement, Scott Bain, to keep his place in the starting line-up. Bain performed well against Lille, saving a penalty in the process, and we expect that he will keep his place in the side.
We predict that Neil Lennon will stick with four at the back, which has fairly successful for the Hoops recently. At full-back, there is only two options. Diego Laxalt on the left, with Jeremie Frimpong on the right. Both players were excellent against Lille, with Laxalt in particular outstanding.
At centre-back things might become a little tricky. Shane Duffy will start the game, but his natural partner Kris Ajer is likely out of the game with an injury picked up against Lille. Stephen Welsh is an option, but we predict that Nir Bitton will make his first Celtic start in a month against Aberdeen. He seems to have recovered well from Covid-19, and as a result should partner with Duffy.
In the middle of the park, will be the usual duo of Scott Brown and Callum McGregor. Brown was on the bench for last week’s trip to Aberdeen, don’t expect Neil Lennon to do that again anytime soon. As for McGregor, he performed well against Lille, but will want to make up for an up and down display against Aberdeen last week.
Attacking trio could be a real threat
Now moving forward, Ryan Christie has played well since he returned to the side and will start. We expect regular Aberdeen slayer Tom Rogic to return to the starting line-up after being on the bench against Lille. Those two can make Celtic tick in an attacking sense in the middle of the pitch.
Ahead of Rogic and Christie has to be Mohamed Elyounoussi. He is in great form after his double against Lille, he could be a real threat to the Aberdeen defence.
Now for the lone striker role. Leigh Griffiths has to be in consideration, after all he did score against Aberdeen only a week ago. Albian Ajeti played well against Lille. However, there is only one option – Odsonne Edouard. He might have played only one game since recovering from Covid-19, but he showed enough that he has to be in the team. It is all about picking your best players, and Edouard is certainly Celtic’s.
Predicted XI: Scott Bain, Jeremie Frimpong, Shane Duffy, Nir Bitton, Diego Laxalt, Scott Brown, Callum McGregor, Ryan Christie, Tom Rogic, Mo Elyounoussi, Odsonne Edouard.