Predicted Celtic XI v Motherwell; flying full-backs, making a point

By Euan Davidson

February 6, 2021

Celtic v Motherwell is at 3pm today, with the Bhoys looking to build on an impressive midweek win [BBC].

The Bhoys had real energy and creativity on display in their win over a dismal Killie side. Yes, Neil Lennon has and will face tougher challenges than Tuesday night. However, there were encouraging signs. We were actually quite good entertainment value.

Graham Alexander’s Motherwell will be looking to cause problems with a low block, keeping compact and playing with physicality. But they also have attacking threats. Against Rangers on January 17th, the Steelmen only created 5 scoring chances, 3 on target. They came away with an impressive point [Sky Sports].

So, on this basis, we’re not expecting wholesale change. Here’s our predicted Celtic XI v Motherwell.

Stephen Welsh deserves to retain his place / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Celtic v Motherwell: the case for Lennon’s defence

We’re not expecting any huge changes at the back for Neil Lennon. In fact, we’re not expecting any changes. Scott Bain will keep his place, mostly because he kept a clean sheet against Kilmarnock. Motherwell have some really good attacking options, like Devante Cole, who could cause Bain some problems.

Greg Taylor and Jonjoe Kenny were pretty good on Tuesday night, and frankly, there’s been nothing to argue against them both playing again. Motherwell can be got at from the flanks, with a front two (we’ll get to them) who can offer height from crosses.

Stephen Welsh to make consecutive starts? That’s what we’re hoping. The young Scotsman looked accomplished against Killie, albeit he didn’t have an awful lot to do. He needs to be sharper responding to lofty passes, and his anticipation could use some work. Ultimately, though, that comes with game time, and he’s good value to start again. That’ll be alongside Kristoffer Ajer, who is surely an automatic pick when he’s fit.

Celtic midfielder David Turnbull celebrates against Dundee United / (Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Big choices to make in midfield

Scott Brown to start for Celtic v Motherwell? We reckon so. Broony was back to his imperious best, and against physically imposing players like Bevis Mugabi and Declan Gallagher, he might actually be useful.

Ryan Christie is missing through injury, so Callum McGregorDavid Turnbull and Moi Elyounoussi will most likely form the creative triumvirate. Moi was absolutely clinical against the Well in November [BBC], with the Steelmen unable to deal with his trickery, pace and movement.

Additionally – and yes, I realise this is doesn’t qualify as starting XI chat – Luca Connell could make his first-team debut from the bench. The Irishman, and the purportedly Dundee-bound Ewan Henderson, were both spotted training yesterday.

With regards to the wee Ivorian hero Ismaila Soro; I reckon he’ll make the bench. If Scott Brown doesn’t perform, he’s there.

Albian Ajeti, scoring against Kilmarnock / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Lennon will look to make a point to the SFA with his selection

Albian Ajeti will be available for this one. Celtic have appealed against his “dive”, for which he was cited by the SFA. In response, we’d be amazed if Lennon doesn’t pick a front two of Ajeti and Odsonne Edouard. 

In footballing terms, we haven’t seen much of the prickly Neil Lennon. He’s been constantly trying to defend himself. This time, we think he’ll go on the offensive by using a player undergoing a level of controversy.

It also makes sense from a footballing standpoint though. Ajeti was good against Kilmarnock, while Odsonne Edouard, like Ajer, is undroppable when match fit. They scored 3 between them on Tuesday night, to mess with what works would be daft.

Predicted XI for Celtic v Motherwell: Bain, Kenny, Ajer, Welsh, Taylor, Brown, Turnbull, McGregor, Elyounoussi, Ajeti, Edouard

Elsewhere, Celtic have contract problems to take care of this summer.