Celtic interim boss offers massive selection boost ahead of Ibrox visit

By Euan Davidson

April 30, 2021

James Forrest has been training all week and is likely to start for Celtic on Sunday.

That’s according to Celtic interim boss John Kennedy, who spoke with assorted media this morning. Kennedy was forced into playing a narrow 4-4-2 diamond in the last Glasgow Derby. Because of that, the Bhoys looked toothless and were frail in defensive scenarios, with full-backs Diego Laxalt and Jonjoe Kenny struggling with the tactical demands.

However, it now appears that JK will be returning to the shape used against Livingston, and to such devastating impact over recent seasons.

Kennedy said [Celtic FC]:

“James [Forrest] has trained all week. He’s been good. Mikey [Johnston] trained this week so we’ve got a better squad in terms of options going in to the game.”

It’s a massive boost for the Bhoys in a game we have to win. Rangers are nearing an unbeaten league season, an idea that is not sitting well with Celtic supporters. While Gerrard’s side has improved, they’ve been there for the taking in previous Glasgow Derbies. Careless mistakes and suspect defending have been significant issues that have barred us from beating our rivals in past meetings this season.

From an attacking perspective, it’s obvious what James Forrest offers. In only 2 recent appearances, Forrest has been an attacking focal point. Not only does he make the game easier for his right-back, who isn’t forced to attack and defend at the same rate, he provides assists and goals. He’s also an out ball for Callum McGregor, David Turnbull or Scott Brown from the middle of the park.

James Forrest celebrates scoring for Celtic / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

James Forrest and Mikey Johnston nearing returns is a big boost for Celtic

Given the struggles Celtic have had in wide positions, you might’ve thought it’d have been a priority to get players through the door in January.

Instead, not so much. Alfie Doughty and Bright Osayi-Samuel were linked but moved elsewhere, while Marian Shved is on loan in Belgium. Karamoko Dembele has only recently seen minutes, albeit very limited minutes. So, instead of using fringe options or investing, Neil Lennon and – sometimes – John Kennedy have reverted to a midfield diamond. Sometimes, it’s worked, but with the effect of keeping the Bhoys very narrow in attack, and forcing shots from outside the box.

We’ve become easy to defend, in truth.

Not so much with James Forrest in the side. Nobody’s saying everything would’ve been different if we had both Forrest and Johnston available all season.

However, you have to figure we’d have turned a few draws into wins with two dynamic wingers on the pitch. This is a big boost for Sunday, and it’s finally some good news from Celtic Park.

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