The most exciting Celtic XI Neil Lennon could field vs Kilmarnock on Sunday

By John McGinley

December 12, 2020

There have been smiles on the faces of Celtic supporters this week, for a change.

But they’ll all mean nothing if Neil Lennon and his Bhoys don’t follow up Thursday’s performance against Lille with a win against Kilmarnock on Sunday.

The pressure is definitely on for tomorrow’s Scottish Premiership clash. Failure to pick up maximum points will likely see the team fall further behind Rangers at the top of the table.

With little more room for error, that could be catastrophic not just for our ten-in-a-row chances, but also Lennon’s job.

The Bhoys boss showed a bit of flexibility mid-week by bringing in a number of fringe players, all of whom impressed.

"Carl Starfelt to Celtic is a big possibility" | Swedish journalist Anel Avdić

The question now is which players does he retain in his starting eleven and which regulars does he force onto the bench?

For me, the following starting lineup is the way to go.

It might sound harsh to keep Greek international Vasilis Barkas out of the team, but I genuinely think young Conor Hazard deserves the opportunity to follow-up his Thursday night display with a league debut for the Hoops.

The defence looked a lot more comfortable with him between the sticks. That’s natural considering he’s been training with the first-team for years. The 22-year-old should now have the jersey until Barkas proves to the coaching staff he has the confidence to shine.

Ahead of Hazard, a defence of Kristoffer Ajer, Christopher Jullien and Shane Duffy central, and Diego Laxalt on the left would suit me fine.

Ajer was very impressive on the right flank against Lille, showing both the defensive discipline to protect the centre-halfs, as well as the attacking skill to exploit the French defensive line. I’d love to see that function again tomorrow.

Midfield is where things might start to get contentious based on your outlook. I’d absolutely love to see a central pairing of Ismaila Soro and Callum McGregor, with David Turnbull given a freer role alongside them.

That trio have the energy, alongside Mohamed Elyounoussi and Ryan Christie, to support the returning Odsonne Edouard in the attack.

Edouard has been lacklustre this season, but supported by a fresh and ambitious midfield, should be unleashed on the Kilmarnock defence.

Celtic midfielder Ismaila Soro / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Soro did take a knock late on against Lille, so his selection could be in doubt, but even if the manager only gets an hour out of him, the Ivorian must start.

Lennon must capitalise on the confidence that he and Turnbull brought to the team on Thursday.

If we see Scott Brown immediately return to the starting eleven, I’ll be deeply disappointed.

All eyes will be on tomorrow’s team announcement.