Ange Postecoglou has a Celtic centre-back dilemma for Betis trip

By David Walton

September 13, 2021

Ange Postecoglou will take his Celtic team to Real Betis on Thursday night with a major squad dilemma on his hands.

All summer Celtic have seemingly been without centre-back depth. Postecoglou was forced to throw youngster Dane Murray into vital UCL qualifiers against Midtjylland. Even after the arrival of Carl Starfelt from Rubin Kazan, we haven’t been able to mix things up at the back due to Christopher Jullien’s injury.

On transfer deadline day, Celtic would secure the signing of USA international Cameron Carter-Vickers. The Spurs defender arrived in a loan agreement until the end of the season. And it’s fair to say it provided an interesting question for Celtic supporters – who makes up our new first-choice centre-back partnership?

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Starfelt and Stephen Welsh never really clicked as well as we would’ve hoped. But Carter-Vickers’ arrival would actually see Welsh dropped instead of the Swedish defender. That came as a surprise given the Celtic academy graduate had been next to faultless this term so far. In fact, if anyone was making careless errors on a semi-regularly basis, it was Starfelt.

Regardless, Carter-Vickers and Starfelt hit it off well in a routine home win against Ross County. Carter-Vickers produced a superb debut display in particular to solidify his spot for the Betis clash on Thursday. With a goal to his name too, it seems inconceivable for him to miss out in Andalusia.

But now Postecoglou has a major decision to make over who plays alongside the Spurs man in the long-term.

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Ange Postecoglou must be sensible with Celtic squad decision

Welsh being dropped suggests he wants Starfelt and Carter-Vickers to team up this week. But that would be harsh on the Scotland U21 international, who bossed it in Alkmaar in the playoff round. He was actually the much stronger of the pair between him and Starfelt.

It’s also vital we don’t halt Welsh’s development. He’s anything but inexperienced now. The Lennoxtown academy graduate has just under 50 competitive games under his belt at senior level – 31 of which being at Parkhead [Transfermarkt].

Then again, Starfelt is a Postecoglou signing. The last thing he’ll want to do is discard someone who cost the club £4m [The Herald]. He’ll want a decent return on that investment, and a performance in Betis would help do just that.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Welsh has been the better of the pair, but Starfelt remains the big-money signing and the more experienced. Postecoglou may feel that having a talent such as Carter-Vickers alongside him will help spur him on.

If that’s the case, Welsh needs to prove he should be in the team just as regularly. Postecoglou will likely rotate his backline a tad throughout the campaign, but he’ll want a solid pair to rely on in big games. At the moment, it’s totally up in the air as to who will make that cut.

Not that it’s out of the equation for Carter-Vickers to drop out if the manager has doubts over his ability to play three games in a week. That does feel highly unlikely though.

Thursday will provide us with the answers. But regardless of who sits on the bench, all three centre-back options will have a major part to play throughout the campaign.

In other news, John Hartson provides his Dom McKay Celtic exit theory