Celtic are back in action this Saturday when they host Airdrieonians in the Scottish Cup fourth round at Celtic Park,
It’s been a long, soul-searching two weeks since losing to Rangers on December 29th. There’s still another long six days to go before we even face the League One side, but at least it’s in sight.
In between times, Celtic have been busy at work in the transfer market. Timothy Weah, Oliver Burke, and Vakoun Issouf Bayo have all joined up at Parkhead. Quite incredibly, however, there’s been nobody going in the other direction as of yet.
But just how will Brendan Rodgers line his slightly-tweaked squad up for their first match upon returning from the Dubai sun? Here, we give it another go at predicting his selection despite our ill-fated attempt to do so for Ibrox.
It all starts, as ever, with Craig Gordon in goal. We argued that in the long-term, Gordon needs replaced. For now, however, he won’t be, and he’ll be eyeing up clean sheet number 16 of the season against the League One side.
The right-back solution has long been an issue. Celtic are still scouring the planet looking for a replacement for Mikael Lustig, but they’ve yet to find one. When they do, however, Lustig will surely be on his way out the team permanently. We’re going to predict that starts this weekend regardless, with Anthony Ralston coming in down the right.
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Kieran Tierney remains a massive doubt, and Rodgers refused to put Emilio Izaguirre in at Ibrox after a bad mistake at Pittodrie. Expect Izzy back in there however, as Rodgers lacks any other options at the moment. A repeat of the McGregor/left-back nonsense is unthinkable.
Dedryck Boyata and Filip Benkovic look likely to partner each other in defence. The latter has now fully recovered from his knee injury, whilst Boyata continues to linger around despite his agent’s comments that he was looking for another club. Rodgers can’t see past him, so he’ll feature if he decides to stick around until Saturday.
Options, options, options
Olivier Ntcham’s struggle with injuries will keep him on the bench, with captain Scott Brown staying in the side. Beside him, he’ll see Ryan Christie, who’s itching to put his derby frustration behind him.
Oliver Burke has joined the club to be James Forrest’s main competition. But 16-goal Forrest, fresh off of speculation linking him with Liverpool, is likely to be given the nod. Burke, you have to imagine, will still feature at some point in the contest.
Scott Sinclair was back to normal at Ibrox – meaning he was absolutely rotten. But he remains one of the first names on the team-sheet regardless.
He has to start showing more confidence on the ball, and not waiting for defenders to catch up to him. That’s one of the main reasons he was so ineffective at Ibrox, as he consistently waited for James Tavernier to catch up to him with his back to goal.
Tom Rogic is still on international duty, and is worryingly playing through the pain barrier with a broken hand. Callum McGregor, therefore, could naturally play in the number 10 position.
Despite the signings of both Weah and Bayo, we’re going to say both start on the bench. Instead, it’ll be Odsonne Edouard leading the line unless Rodgers wants to really spring a shock or two. One, most likely Weah, is likely to come on at some stage like Burke.
Celtic’s next few games are at Parkhead, so the new players will have several opportunities to get used to the big pitch.
Below is our predicted starting XI in full for Saturday.