Neil Lennon’s return to Easter Road is going to be dramatic regardless of what happens.
Just one month after leaving Hibernian after a joint statement and in controversial fashion, Lennon is back in Edinburgh looking to haunt his old side.
Celtic make the notoriously tricky journey to Leith as they look to reach the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup. The Hoops are of course going for their 26th consecutive cup tie win. They previously broke Walter Smith’s Rangers record of 24 in the recent 5-0 hammering of St Johnstone in the last round of the cup.
But Lennon won’t have any of that on his mind. He’ll just be looking to get the job done and keep motivation high at Parkhead. And after commenting after the Hearts win that he’s looking to tweak one or two things, just who will start Saturday’s contest?
Here, we take a look at who could be given the nod at Easter Road.
Scott Bain as always will likely keep his place in goal. Like buses, two goals were conceded in quick succession against Motherwell and Hearts after a lengthy run of 13 domestic matches without conceding for the former Dundee shot-stopper. He’ll be looking to start a new run on Saturday.
Toljan vs Lustig
We made a point regarding the right-back spot yesterday about how Jeremy Toljan hasn’t impressed. Lennon hooked him towards the death at Tynecastle in an eye-raising substitution. We’re going to make our bold decision here and say that Mikael Lustig, therefore, takes his place back at Easter Road.
It’s not much of a debate who’ll start in the rest of the defensive positions. Kieran Tierney at left-back combined with a partnership of Dedryck Boyata and Kristoffer Ajer in the centre is most likely.
Scott Brown and Nir Bitton looked a tad slow in the high-tempo clash at Tynecastle. Celtic certainly missed the legs of Callum McGregor and Ryan Christie in there. Hibs’ midfield is going to be a lot more energetic than Hearts’, however, so Celtic have to be wary. Due to a lack of alternatives, expect Bitton to partner Brown once again.
Lennon gave a strong hint after the Hearts game about who’s going to start in his attack. He referenced that the trio of Scott Sinclair, Oliver Burke, and James Forrest need to be given the ball more. That’s a strong hint that this is Lennon’s first choice in those areas.
Odsonne Edouard may have scored the winner at Tynecastle, but due to Lennon’s reference regarding the attacking trio, expect Burke to start up top again.
Ewan Henderson, meanwhile, played well enough at Hearts to deserve another start at Easter Road. He has two assists in three games and played a defence-splitting pass for Celtic’s first goal at Tynecastle. Another assist this weekend would be golden.
Here’s our predicted XI in list form:
GK – Scott Bain
RB – Mikael Lustig
CB – Kristoffer Ajer
CB – Dedryck Boyata
LB – Kieran Tierney
CM – Scott Brown
CM – Nir Bitton
RM – James Forrest
CAM – Ewan Henderson
LM – Scott Sinclair
ST – Oliver Burke