Revenge on the agenda, but an eye on Alkmaar: Celtic Predicted XI v Hearts

By Euan Davidson

August 14, 2021

After the relentless fun of Thursday night, it almost seems a bit cruel for Celtic to have wait until tomorrow to entertain us again, let alone to write a Celtic Predicted XI.

The Bhoys are on some good form. Three wins and 13 goals, against Jablonec (twice) and Dundee have lifted the mood at Kerrydale Street. Ange Postecoglou’s system is being fully bought into, with some wonderful attacking football and – at last – some decent defending.

That makes writing a Celtic Predicted XI that bit sweeter. With plenty of goals and game-winners in the team, all the Hoops need to do is carry some confidence with them to another packed Parkhead.

Against Hearts, though, there’s a need for some revenge. Robbie Neilson’s side took the spoils in the SPFL’s opening weekend [BBC]. In the League Cup, a shot at redemption.

Who makes it into our Celtic Predicted XI to face Hearts tomorrow?

Celtic Predicted XI: If it ain’t broke…

So, starting between the sticks, it’s got to be the easiest choice in the whole side. 75-cap England international Joe Hart will be handed the gloves once more, and you can expect that to be a regular feature in 21-22.

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Celtic 3-0 FK Jablonec | The glory of being back at a packed Paradise

Celtic 3-0 FK Jablonec | The glory of being back at a packed Paradise
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Since arriving, Hart’s vocal leadership has made the Celtic defence better. It’s that simple. There’s already trust there, as proven by likely starters Carl Starfelt and Stephen Welsh rushing over to Hart on Thursday night, to congratulate him for a stupendous save.

Having a goalkeeper to rely upon makes a defender’s job easier. Again, it’s pretty simple stuff, but it’s proven and true. So, we expect Hart, Starfelt and Welsh to take their place in the team again.

In the full-back slots, we’d be surprised to see anyone but Greg Taylor on the left and Anthony Ralston on the right.

After two consecutive clean sheets, it would be more than a bit strange to tinker with what’s working. Especially when the defence has been an area of frailty for what seems like an eternity now.

Photo by Jan Christensen / FrontzoneSport via Getty Images

Here’s where it gets tricker

Now, given the demands on the midfield in particular, there’s temptation for Ange Postecoglou to tinker. That makes anyone writing a Celtic Predicted XI feel a little uncomfortable.

At the risk of being entirely wrong, I can see Postecoglou rotating his options a little bit. It’s still probably a little bit too early for a James McCarthy start; a real shame, considering the excitement about the Ireland international.

With that in mind, I’m opting for Callum McGregor, Ismaila Soro and David Turnbull. “Wow!”, you might say, “You’ve changed out one player from Thursday night!”.

Yes, fine. But rotation is rotation. Ismaila Soro, I think, will come in for the impressive Tom Rogic in order to keep him fresh for AZ Alkmaar. For whatever reason, Rogic doesn’t normally finish matches that he starts, and with his recent form in mind, it seems the right move to keep the Australian fresh for the Eredivisie side’s visit on Wednesday.

Callum McGregor, as captain, should be nailed on to start. David Turnbull was excellent in midweek, but I don’t see him necessarily finishing the game either. Ideally, a substitution on the hour mark will ensure the ex-Motherwell man is ready for another Europa League bout.

Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images

Celtic Predicted XI: Cohesive front trio surely have to start

With uncertainty over Israel international Liel Abada, I get the sense that if he wasn’t quite right in training, he’ll be kept under observation until the AZ game.

Therefore, it’s Christie on the left, Kyogo in the middle, and James Forrest on the right.

Christie’s blistering form has been a huge source of comfort for Celtic supporters, after his difficulties under Neil Lennon. Forrest, meanwhile, is closing in on two remarkable milestones in the Hoops. He’ll be desperate to provide some goals and assists against a tricky Hearts side.

As for Kyogo? Well, in much better condition than he was when we last faced Hearts, it’s not hard to imagine his movement and trickery will cause untold problems for the Jambos.

In other news: Celtic boss expecting much better this time out