It’s always nice to write a Celtic Predicted XI.
For one thing, it means we’re talking about football. The actual game of football. All week, Celtic supporters have been overwhelmed with manager talk. I don’t know about you, but I’ve discussed Roy Keane about 100% more than I do most weeks.
Mick McCarthy, Eddie Howe; these names are beginning to replace loved ones in my mind. If I wrote a family tree this minute, I’m completely certain I’d write Enzo Maresca’s name by accident.
So, let’s focus on an actual match. It feels like an eternity since we played Aberdeen, a scrappy 1-0 win that still showed a decent amount of promise. For a long time, it seemed that this Celtic team forgot they could actually move the ball about with a bit of patience. Scott Bain was playing the ball to central defenders.
It wasn’t the best game, but it was somewhat refreshing. Against Micky Mellon’s Dundee United tomorrow, John Kennedy has the chance to expand on what worked against Aberdeen, and root out what didn’t. With that in mind, and my own conspiracy theories about Mohammed Elyounoussi talking to journalists today [@CelticFC], here’s our Celtic Predicted XI to face the Terriers in Tannadice tomorrow.
Celtic Predicted XI: A slow start, but it’ll get better
One of the bits of good news this week was a contract extension for Conor Hazard. It might be jumping the gun a little to suggest that he’ll be in the team for tomorrow, but I reckon the hype around the Irishman will see him picked for this one.
Bain didn’t do much wrong against Aberdeen, but his distribution was occasionally suspect. He doesn’t look too comfortable on the ball, and with Barkas not quite ready, I have a strong feeling that we’ll see the 22-year-old in action this weekend.
With Greg Taylor still out, Diego Laxalt will build on his decent display last weekend. He and Jonjoe Kenny will be entrusted with providing good service into central areas, and playing further up the pitch. Both full-backs generally kept to the half-way line out of possession and moved further up when Celtic were on the ball. It was good. More of this, please.
The central defence picks itself. Stephen Welsh and Kristoffer Ajer kept a clean sheet against the Dons, and will be battling the on-form Lawrence Shankland on Sunday’s trip to the East Coast.
A midfield three…?
Here’s where things get a bit sexier.
I’m predicting a midfield three of Ismaila Soro, Callum McGregor and David Turnbull. Soro will play deeper and allow CalMac and Turnbull to rove into spaces between Dundee United’s defence and midfield.
While it’s possible John Kennedy will play a 4-2-3-1, I’m predicting something of a mix between that shape and the 4-4-2 diamond. So, instead of having a tip playing number 10, I think the core of that midfield will remain in place. Width will come from two inside forwards, stretching play out and providing opportunities for a lone striker.
It’s bold, I know. But I strongly believe it’ll happen. As for those attackers…
Celtic Predicted XI finished off by an exciting new forward line
Mohammed Elyounoussi deserves a chance back in the side, and I think he’ll be played as either an inside-forward or on the left of an attacking three, as a traditional winger.
The Norwegian international only has so many games before he returns to Southampton, where his future is undecided. With the last handful of games, Elyounoussi can state his case for a permanent move to Celtic Park. For his part, Moi seems keen, but it’s whether or not Celtic want him long-term that’s more to the point.
On the other side, it’s got to be Ryan Christie. While you might say that – yes! – Ryan Christie has been played on the right to minimal effect, this is a different role for the Invernesian. Just behind and to the right of Odsonne Edouard (spoiler alert), Christie can operate as either a 10, or as a sort of inverted winger. Jonjoe Kenny will overlap, allowing Christie to come inside and either shoot on his favoured left foot, or play a killer ball.
Of course, Edouard will start up front. February’s Player of the Month is an automatic starter. My hero, my King.
Celtic predicted XI: Hazard, Kenny, Ajer, Welsh, Laxalt, Soro, McGregor, Turnbull, Christie, Elyounoussi, Edouard