In normal circumstances, we’d be pretty confident of a win against Ross County.
However, these are by no means normal circumstances. Neil Lennon’s men come into Sunday’s Betfred Cup fixture with legitimate cause for concern.
With no disrespect to Ross County, they’re a team we should be beating. Especially when about half of their first-team is missing, as is the case for tomorrow.
There are, however, areas where Celtic can win the battle. Here are 3 things Neil Lennon needs to get right if he’s to keep his job.
Aim for the jugular with Edouard
As proven by Kilmarnock last Saturday, Stuart Kettlewell’s youthful side are there to be got at. Even a man down, courtesy of ex-Celt Stuart Findlay, Alex Dyer’s men pressed well and came away with 3 points.
If Coll Donaldson and Alex Iacovitti are again the preferred central pairing in the Ross County defence, then they’ll need to improve on a shaky display against Killie.
Iacovitti in particular struggles against pacey players, preferring not to dive in against oncoming traffic. He manages less than 1 tackle a game (via WhoScored?) and his average of 0.8 blocks and 1.1 fouls a game indicate that he’s doesn’t enjoy picking up fast dribblers.
If Edouard is on song, he could run riot against a team that’s conceded 6 in the their last 3 matches. French Eddy needs to be direct, and it’s potentially a match-up that serves him well.
Bring Back Barkas
Scott Bain, despite his charming wee face, hasn’t been doing the business in recent matches.
Of course, we’ve conceded a staggering 21 goals in 9 matches. Three a game. It’s bizarre and unacceptable, and while that’s not solely down to Bain, the former Dundee goalie has struggled.
The second goal the Sparta scored the other night pointed out exactly where Bain is deficient. He lacks leadership qualities, and doesn’t seem able to organise a back-line effectively.
He looked indecisive all night, and Prague’s fourth was the final act in an unwanted comedy spectacle.
Confidence has to be an issue at this point, and that’s why Barkas has to come back.
Having recovered from a back injury (it’s always a back injury when there’s negative chat, isn’t it), Greece international Vasilis Barkas has to come back into the side.
We spoke about the goalkeeping issue in the context of Celtic’s recruitment policy in this video on 67 Hail Hail’s YouTube channel.
Soro must play; midfield shuffle needed
There’s no doubt that Scott Brown and Callum McGregor have given Celtic fans plenty of solid performances in our recent history.
Both players provide leadership in the middle of the park, with excellent passing percentages, and – in normal circumstances – are more than proficient at winning the ball and moving it forwards.
Against Sparta, however, both were poor. Whether it’s tiredness, lack of motivation or something else, the normally steady duo couldn’t get it going.
It’s been a familiar story this year, sadly. Out of the two, it seems more likely that CalMac can turn things around more quickly. Broony, however, needs some time out of the team.
Ismaila Soro should start. If he’s ever going to develop into a useful player for Celtic, he needs to be playing games like these.
In fact, there are possibilities for a few fringe players to stake a claim against Ross County tomorrow. A win is a must, but rather than relying on the same names, Lennon should freshen the team. There are plenty of players with something to prove in Green and White this year.
Soro is young, but the Ivorian has proven himself already in Israel’s Ligat ha’Al, making 25 appearances in 18-19 before a move to the East End of Glasgow.
There’s a reason that the scouts were keen on him. It’s time to give him a real shot, and the Betfred Cup seems like the perfect arena for Soro’s fledgling Celtic career.