Celtic manager Neil Lennon has all but confirmed that there will be some squad changes for the Europa League matches against Rennes and Cluj respectively.
In Celtic’s four Europa League matches so far, Lennon has gone with the exact same starting XI bar one change. Jonny Hayes had to come in for the injured Boli Bolingoli in Lazio last Thursday. Outside of that, however, it’s been the same XI to start each match.
What a job they’ve made of it too. Three wins out of four with only three goals conceded and seven scored. Qualification has been secured, and the pressure is now off Lennon’s side.
So it perhaps comes as not much of a surprise to hear that there will definitely be changes for the final two European matches. Speaking in the Celtic View (Volume 55, Issue 19, Pages 8 and 9), here’s what Neil had to say on the fixtures:
“It would be great to win the group and we’ll try to finish with as many points as possible. But with the huge amount of games we have between now and the break, it’s imperative that we use the squad.
“It’s important to give players game-time at that level so the players who haven’t had a chance to play will maybe get the opportunity to play in some of these games.”
Lennon will have to bring a balancing act
This is interesting to hear from Lenny. It’s clear more changes are about to be made for the final two games, but yet more history could be written before the group stage is over.
If Celtic defeat Rennes and Cluj lose in Lazio, the Parkhead side will top the group. It would be the first time in the club’s history that we would’ve managed the feat.
As well as that, there are crucial coefficient points up for grabs. As things stand, Scotland sit 16th in UEFA’s official coefficient list. We’re just 0.125 points off 15th placed Cyprus too (UEFA).
That’s not forgetting the prize-money that’s up for grabs either. If Celtic win both their final two games, they’ll rake in over €1.1m as well as a further €1m bonus for topping the group (UEFA).
Neil surely wouldn’t want to throw all of this away just so a couple of players can get a game in Europe. There’s still plenty at stake for the club despite qualification being secured.
Of course, when Lennon talks about squad rotation, we’ll hopefully be looking at the likes of Olivier Ntcham, Tom Rogic, and Moritz Bauer coming in for more game-time as opposed to more untested names. One thing’s for sure, the line-ups for the final two games will certainly be interesting.