Diego Laxalt in the starting XI is an absolute must for Celtic at Ibrox

By David Walton

December 27, 2020

Celtic have a colossal week ahead of them that involves two massive games against Dundee Utd and Rangers.

The first takes place on Wednesday night against the Terrors. Expect some more changes from Neil Lennon as he tries to add some freshness to the team again. This could see Greg Taylor keep his place ahead of Diego Laxalt.

It’s something Lennon has gone with in two of our last three games. Taylor started the Scottish Cup final against the Jambos before again playing the 90 against Hamilton last night. In between, on-loan AC Milan left-back Laxalt was thrown in against Ross County.

The rotational policy has keep things fresh and ensured neither man has been burnt out. But at Ibrox on Saturday, there can be no messing about from Lennon – Laxalt simply must start the game.

This will likely be a debate that goes on over the next week regardless of what Wednesday brings. However, it’s important to remember the traits both men have.

We’ve spoken for weeks about how important it is for full-backs to get to the byline in this Celtic side. That will be more important than ever against Rangers, who have shown massive deficiencies from cross-balls in recent matches.

Taylor, for all of his tidiness on the ball and willingness to get beyond the full-back, simply isn’t efficient enough for me. Too many crosses rattle off the first man these days. How often have we seen him link up well with either David Turnbull or Callum McGregor only to hit the first defender with his crosses?

Laxalt the more efficient option for Celtic

In addition to that, Taylor doesn’t have the ball-winning trait Laxalt holds. The Uruguayan is a total nightmare to play against with his energy and tenacity. He gets up and down the park so well and has shown bursts of pace since arriving in the summer. That’s something Taylor generally struggles with too.

We need the best defender to be playing for us on the day. Taylor hasn’t proven to be too sharp when it comes to one-v-one defending. Laxalt, meanwhile, has been heralded for his ability in that respect since he signed. Even UEFA highlighted how good he was when Celtic had their backs to the wall in Lille.

Diego Laxalt in action for Celtic / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

In the last derby, he was also one of the better performers. It was his debut and many of his teammates were dreadful. WhoScored ranked him better than 10 other Celtic players who competed on the day. That was extremely impressive considering it was his debut also.

Laxalt is more reliable to be a total menace for James Tavernier. That simply has to be exploited, especially considering the Rangers captain was generally quiet at Parkhead.

Lennon has to make sure every decision is spot on in Govan next week. Taylor certainly has his spot in this Celtic squad and will be used regularly. Dundee Utd looks a fine opportunity to give him more minutes.

But Rangers at Ibrox? Let’s not kid ourselves, it has to be Diego.

In other news, a major opportunity has presented itself on Wednesday for this Dundee United star.