Chris Sutton names preferred Celtic XI for Scottish Cup Final; fans will agree

By Euan Davidson

December 15, 2020

Celtic legend Chris Sutton has offered his thoughts on team selection ahead of Sunday’s Scottish Cup Final.

Speaking on the Record Celtic podcast, Sutton had some interesting insight into how Celtic should approach the match against Hearts. Celtic are chasing an unprecedented Quadruple Treble, with Sunday offering some much-needed jubilance during a difficult season.

In his wide-ranging comments, Sutton spoke about each department in some detail. Here’s what he said about each position.

Hazard impressed on his European debut / (Photo by Alan Harvey/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Hazard backed for start

Sutton backed Conor Hazard to keep his place in goals. Vasilis Barkas and Scott Bain have struggled, while the Northern Ireland international is considering a contract offer.

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Hazard hasn’t faced too many shots as Celtic’s number 1, but some consistency in the position would serve the whole team well. Sutton said:

“What’s he done wrong? He hasn’t been overly worked but he’s looked extremely competent.

“It seems to be an easy choice. Barkas had big money splashed out on him, looks like he’s just bereft of confidence. Hazard will remain in goal unless he makes mistakes. He deserves his chance.

The Bhoys: back in town / (Photo by Craig Foy/SNS Group via Getty Images)

The case for the defence

Sutton suggested that Neil Lennon should make one change from the defence who kept Kilmarnock shut out on Sunday. Diego Laxalt looks likely to take back his place in the team, although Greg Taylor played well at the weekend.

“I think the back four will be Ajer, Jullien, Duffy and Laxalt. I’m not really sure why Laxalt was left out against Kilmarnock. Taylor didn’t have a bad game but I think a Cup Final, you play your strongest team.

“Jullien was out for a long period, and I just wonder whether if Duffy is feeling more secure with Jullien alongside him. Ajer is showing his versatility by playing right back. In many respects, that’s a help for Jeremie Frimpong, who doesn’t have that defensive responsibility.

“Celtic have had massive problems defensively, they’re certainly not out of the woods. I think Celtic look a better back line with [Jullien] in there.”

 

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

Midfield and attack, “not a big call” to make

Sutton rubbished the notion of ‘loyalty’ in terms of team selection, stating the case for Soro to start and Frimpong to return in an advanced position.

The pundit said:

“I don’t agree with Neil in his assessment about being loyal. There’s no room for sentiment at this moment in time for the Celtic team. It’s about winning. It’s about building momentum.

“No way am I suggesting that Scott Brown is finished. But what message does it send out when you go into a Cup Final and you’re not playing the players who deserve to be in the team on merit? Soro deserves to be in the team on merit of his last performances, and so does Turnbull.”

“Frimpong would be the better option in terms of a byline winger. He seems to be happy without that real defensive responsibility. I think Frimpong has to start on the right.”

Sutton expressed no doubt about Odsonne Edouard starting on Sunday. He added, however, that French Eddy needed to improve on his current form.

“The fact of the matter is he has to get back to basics. When you set the standards which he set last season, he’s miles off it.

What we do know is that there’s a player in there… I’ve spoken before about hesitation. He seems to be hesitating. He may not be getting the break of the ball at this moment time. He isn’t being really proactive in and around the box.”

Sutton hits the target during his playing days / (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Sutton hits the target

We have a strange relationship with Chris Sutton, but once again, it’s hard to argue with him.

In all honesty, my own preferred XI for the Cup Final is exactly the same as the one he’s suggesting here. Hazard should keep his place, as should Soro and Turnbull.

This cup final is a massive deal. It’s a chance to celebrate something monumental. The timing is extremely strange, but that’s the situation. On a rare Christmas Scottish Cup final, Neil Lennon and his players should be motivated beyond doubt.

This isn’t a testimonial. It’s a gigantic game. Neil Lennon should pick the players that have dug him out of a substantial hole over the last two games.

Anything else is foolery.


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