Predicted Celtic XI vs AC Milan: Lennon to try and excite with job on the line

By David Walton

December 2, 2020

What a week of pure torture this has been.

Over the last seven days we’ve been mauled 4-1 by Sparta Prague (AGAIN!) and officially knocked out of the Europa League. We’ve been beaten 2-0 at Celtic Park by Ross County for the first time in our history to see us knocked out of the Betfred Cup (Goodbye Quintuple Treble). And finally, we’ve seen the board reportedly stick by the manager and give him more time to turn things around (Scottish Sun).

Yes, things are all over the place at Parkhead just now. It’s not that the storm clouds are gathering anymore – there’s a full-blown hurricane that’s smashing up our season.

It doesn’t get any easier this week either. A trip to AC Milan at the San Siro will see Neil Lennon go into this Europa League dead-rubber looking to simply avoid an absolute doing. Getting a win in Italy, as welcome as that would be, isn’t expected. Lennon will instead be looking for some sheer fight from his team and give the supporters a modicum of hope ahead of a run of winnable domestic fixtures.

And as we prepare for tomorrow night’s game, we have a go at dishing out our predicted XI for what will be a night behind the couch for many of us:

Barkas to keep his spot, but Frimpong to be given big San Siro chance

Vasilis Barkas didn’t do himself many favours at the weekend. He allowed another two goals to slip to County after returning to the side in Scott Bain’s place. However, we’re going to go with Lennon keeping him in his spot for now.

Hatem Elhamed has struggled badly in the last week, and given Lennon is likely only one game away from the sack every week, we expect Jeremie Frimpong to be given his spot back. He produced in Lille on matchday two, and the pacey Celtic youngster will be one of our main outlets as we try to get in behind Milan.

At centre-back, the partnership of Christopher Jullien and Kris Ajer will remain in place, whilst Diego Laxalt unsurprisingly will play at left-back. We don’t expect Lennon to deviate from a back four.

The midfield duo of Scott Brown and Callum McGregor will play as the anchors of the midfield, despite both men performing poorly for large stages of the season. The manager is extremely reluctant to break that partnership up.

Neil Lennon watches on as Celtic lose to Milan (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

However, Neil will want the Celtic supporters to be invested in this one. If he can manage it, he would likely love a ding-dong battle that makes us come across as competitive on the night. That’s what makes us think he’ll try and have a go here. A miserable defensive display only for us to lose by a goal or two won’t come across well at the moment.

He’ll look to Mohamed Elyounoussi to try and repeat his Lille exploits when he bagged a brace in France. A similar display tomorrow evening would likely buy Lennon more time.

We’ll go with Ryan Christie to operate on the right side, whilst Tom Rogic keeps his place as the manager tries to fit all of his best flair players onto the pitch.

Odsonne Edouard may have come in for plenty of stick this season, but with two goals in his last three matches, he can’t be dropped just yet. That means Albian Ajeti drops to the bench.

Yup, a 4-2-3-1 is how we expect the Hoops to line up at the San Siro as Lennon desperately tried to avoid another embarrassment. Hopefully, we can lay a glove or two on the Serie A heavyweights.

Predicted XI: Vasilis Barkas, Jeremie Frimpong, Christopher Jullien, Kristoffer Ajer, Diego Laxalt, Scott Brown, Callum McGregor, Ryan Christie, Tom Rogic, Mohamed Elyounoussi, Odsonne Edouard.

In other news, a regular BBC Sportsound pundit has provided a bizarre excuse for one of Celtic’s major disappointments.