No drop in intensity: Predicted Celtic XI v West Ham United
Celtic face West Ham United tomorrow in what has to be considered the blockbuster friendly of the Bhoys’ pre-season.
Fine, yes: in previous years, Celtic have faced teams like Real Madrid [Celtic Wiki], and toured in America for glamour ties. But this pre-season is a little different, is it not?
Covid-19 is still a thing, and if Celtic learned one important lesson from last season, it’s probably that international travel is not the best idea, currently. So, a pre-season camp in Wales and a couple of decent friendlies at home sounds like a good idea.
Sandwiched between the FC Midtjylland meetings, you might expect Ange Postecoglou’s side to take their foot off the gas a little. That doesn’t seem like the boss’ mentality, though. After defeat against Preston North End, this is a game he’ll assuredly want to win.
With one eye on a crucial trip to Denmark, here’s our Predicted Celtic XI to face West Ham United.
Predicted Celtic XI: some tweaks to the defence, but a show of faith nonetheless
After Barkas’ bad luck/howler (delete as appropriate), you might think Postecoglou would opt for Scott Bain to face West Ham United. Not so.
The Greek goalie may have looked suspect again when facing Midtjylland. But, like Nir Bitton, Ange Postecoglou doesn’t want to blame players or hold grudges. Up against some considerable attacking talent, this could be a good opportunity for Barkas to rebuild some much-needed confidence.
On the left, we’re thinking Greg Taylor will be chosen alongside Stephen Welsh, Dane Murray and Anthony Ralston.
With Carl Starfelt not available yet, and Dane Murray impressing after Bitton’s sending off on Tuesday night, it seems conceivable that the youngster will be handed another opportunity. Osaze Urhoghide will surely come on at some stage, but we fancy Murray to start.
Callum McGregor v Mark Noble
You have to think, if Brendan Rodgers had his way, Callum McGregor would be facing Premier League midfielders every week.
Instead, he’s the new Celtic captain. As such, he makes our Predicted Celtic XI with total ease. Impressive against Midtjylland, he’s just an absolute must-pick, whatever the occasion.
Alongside him, we think Ismaila Soro will be rested initially, with Liam Shaw coming in to partner the captain. Ahead of him, David Turnbull was another who looked sharp in Champions League qualifying, but Tom Rogic will likely start against West Ham.
The Australian still needs to build fitness. Against a David Moyes-led West Ham United, Rogic needs to show his former Australia coach that he’s worthy of game-time in 21-22. Last season was a slow one for the Socceroo.
Predicted Celtic XI: a minor shot at redemption in attack?
It might’ve been a bit of a surprise to see Ryan Christie line up against FC Midtjylland. By all appearances, he seemed to be on his way out. He still well could be, but he was trusted against Champions League qualifying opposition, and it makes sense to build on his impressive display.
Sharp, dynamic and getting his shots on target, Christie was a handful for Midtjylland, and it makes sense to include him again tomorrow. On the right hand side, it’d be great to see what Liel Abada can do for more than 45 minutes of a game.
The Israeli international scored the all-important opener for Celtic. Already, he and Christie look formidable as a wing duo. They could cause West Ham plenty of issues.
Up front, Edouard didn’t quite look himself on Tuesday night. He’ll play the second half, though, with Albian Ajeti needing to improve after a promising early pre-season.
The Swiss striker just looked way off it, from a fitness perspective. That’s odd, considering he came flying out of the gates in Wales.