It’s been a chaotic last five days for Celtic, but they now have a glorious opportunity to change the narrative surrounding this squad.
The Hoops have had their character questioned and even their ability put up for debate after being defeated by Rangers 2-0 at Parkhead on Saturday. But a win over AC Milan in our Europa League Group H opener and there’ll be nothing but praise coming their way.
Neil Lennon decided to go with a front two against Rangers that involved a left-winger in Mohamed Elyounoussi playing alongside Patryk Klimala. The former is just one of two under-performers from Saturday who can expect to drop out, with the other being midfielder Olivier Ntcham.
So here, we take a look at who’ll be replacing them as we run through our predicted XI for this Euro cracker:
Two changes and a European debut
Vasilis Barkas is still looking for that breakthrough performance in a Celtic jersey. He will have been disappointed with both goals in Saturday’s derby defeat, and will feel he needs to start producing sooner rather than later. No better time than the present then as he’ll be tasked with keeping out Zlatan Ibrahimovic and co.
Yes, we’re going to stick with the 3-5-2 for the visit of the Serie A champions. Lennon utilised it against Rangers, which showed a willingness to start using it regularly against better sides.
At the back, we’re going to go with Stephen Welsh to be given his European debut for the club after a competent display against Rangers. With Nir Bitton, Hatem Elhamed, and Chris Jullien all still sidelined, it leaves his partners obvious. Shane Duffy and Kris Ajer won’t be pleased with how Saturday went for them, and both will be itching to rectify that against Milan.
Celtic still have absolutely no alternative to Jeremie Frimpong, who has been a touch off the boil in the last two games. Given James Forrest also isn’t fit, Jeremie looks a cert to start once again on the right side.
Over on the left, the onus will be on Diego Laxalt to hurt his parent club with pinpoint deliveries into their penalty area. He must be as motivated as anyone to put in a shift this evening.
Now for the midfield. Many Celtic fans have been calling for David Turnbull to be given his first European start for the club, but we just can’t see it. Lennon has proven he simply can’t see past the Scott Brown and Callum McGregor duo when it comes to anchoring the midfield. They’ll play again tonight.
Nor for our first change from Saturday. Ryan Christie wasn’t available to play against Rangers due to being forced to self-isolate. Given how woeful Ntcham was in Christie’s more attack-minded role, we expected Lennon to produce a straight swap. It’ll be down to Ryan to provide the central service to the front two as he makes his return.
And yes, we’re going for a front two. We want to see Celtic really go after Milan and try to test their back-line. Being at home and with not a lot of pressure on us, we at 67HailHail feel we don’t have a lot to lose by showing some ambition.
Therefore, for our second change, Lennon is going to throw in Albian Ajeti in Elyounoussi’s position. He’ll be joined by the tireless Klimala, who should be rewarded for the effort he put into Saturday’s defeat. This is a duo I’ve personally been wanting to see for a long time – hopefully tonight will see Lennon go with it.
Predicted XI: Vasilis Barkas, Stephen Welsh, Shane Duffy, Kristoffer Ajer, Jeremie Frimpong, Scott Brown, Ryan Christie, Callum McGregor, Diego Laxalt, Albian Ajeti, Patryk Klimala