It’s not quite the Champions League, but tomorrow’s Europa League playoff carries plenty of importance.
AIK will be the opposition, in what can only be described as one of the more difficult ties we could’ve been given.
It’s actually quite incredible just how much the Cluj defeat eight days ago has rocked us. The last week has been a depressing one for the Celtic support. Saturday’s embarrassing 2-1 extra-time win over Dunfermline only added to the disgrace.
But finally we have a true shot at redemption. There was no real winning against the Pars at the weekend. A 5-0 rout would’ve been met with a shrug of the shoulders by outsiders. But a fine win against the Swedish outfit tomorrow and some real confidence will be brought back to Parkhead.
So will Lenny learn from his mistakes when it comes to the team selection? Here, we have a stab at how we think he’ll line-up.
The battle for the number one spot is on a knife-edge at the moment. Yesterday, we bigged up the idea of Craig Gordon keeping his place ahead of Scott Bain. Bain missed the win against Dunfermline with a hand injury, but he’s struggled to convince since the season began. We’re going to stick by our guns and say Gordon gets the nod again.
At right-back we have the increasingly impressive Hatem Abd Elhamed. He’s settled into life in Glasgow so quickly, and deserves enormous praise for it. Sure, he was part of last week’s disaster, but this really is a totally different culture for him. Hopefully he continues his impressive start tomorrow.
Call this next choice optimistic, but we’re going with the centre-back partnership of Kristoffer Ajer and Christopher Jullien. It’s time to stop messing about. This is our first-choice duo and they should both be playing in these big games.
Boli back in at left-back
At left-back, Lennon simply can’t put himself in the spotlight like he did last week. Callum McGregor will slot back into midfield, with Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo given another chance to provide that breakout performance he desperately needs. Anything else is just madness, unless he decides to give Jonny Hayes a run-out. But we can’t see that happening.
Scott Brown was rested against Dunfermline in one of the wiser decisions by Lenny this week. We all know that won’t be the case on Thursday.
A special mention also deserves to be given to James Forrest. The Scotland international has now incredibly scored in Celtic’s last four matches. The run of strikes come after he failed to bag in his opening eight games of the season (including friendlies). He’s the man in form, and he’ll be a big part in breaking AIK down.
Christie to return to form?
Ryan Christie actually came in for some stick from sections of the support at Celtic Park on Saturday. It was a shame too, as he was one of the only impressive performers against Cluj. He also ran his heart out at Parkhead on Saturday, but things just weren’t coming off for him. Hopefully he finds a return to form tomorrow, because he’s surely set to feature.
Mikey Johnston scored an incredible effort to give us the lead against the Pars. There is a big debate over whether it was a cross or a shot, but who cares! He was anonymous against Cluj, but we’re going to predict he gets the chance to shine again against the Swedes.
Up top, there’s only one true option at the moment. Odsonne Edouard was unplayable against Cluj last week. Unfortunately, however, he struggled when partnered with Leigh Griffiths on Saturday. That’s not an experiment you would expect the Hoops manager to persist with tomorrow. Therefore, it’s Eddy for us once again.
As always, here’s the team in list form for a game we simply must win and win comfortably: