Do the Celtic XI vs Cluj really need a pep talk for this one?
There’s so much at stake on both a professional level and personal one tomorrow night. The Hoops host the Romanians looking to strike revenge after being dumped out of the Champions League by them back in August.
Cluj rocked up at Parkhead and embarrassed Neil Lennon’s side on the night. 4-3 to Dan Petrescu’s team meant that they qualified with a 5-4 aggregate success. Humiliation for Celtic, who were suddenly thrown into crisis.
But more pertinently, Celtic have a massive opportunity on their hands here. There’s a chance we could end the night having secured four points from our opening two Europa League games. It would be the best start we would’ve made to the competition since 2014 under Ronny Deila.
Lennon was criticised for a host of decisions on the night against Cluj. Bearing that in mind, here’s our predicted XI for tomorrow night:
It was Scott Bain who was in goal for the Cluj tie both home and away. He didn’t cover himself in glory in either of the games. The former Dundee shot-stopper failed to keep out the likes of George Tucudean and Billel Omrani. Fraser Forster will likely take the jersey this week, and that alone gives you a stronger confidence in the side.
Hatem Abd Elhamed has missed the last two league games thanks to Moritz Bauer’s performances. However, the Austrian has a troubling ankle knock that could see him miss out (Daily Record). Elhamed remains the number one choice in any case, so he has to be favourite to come in.
Down the left, Boli Bolingoli will be looking to prove a point to Lennon. He was on the bench and dropped surprisingly for Callum McGregor back in August in this same fixture. He has to prove he’s up to the task against Petrescu’s side.
You already have a real confidence in Celtic’s defence with Christopher Jullien in there. He’s another that didn’t start any of the first two meetings. With him alongside Kristoffer Ajer, the defensive calamity of before shouldn’t rear its head again.
Scott Brown is yet another who owes the Celtic fans for Cluj. When we were 2-1 up on the night and had completed a fine turnaround, Brown needlessly handled in the box to set up the chaos that was to ensue. He’ll be in alongside Callum McGregor most likely.
Celtic’s real dangerman tomorrow night could be James Forrest. He scored in both meetings with Cluj in that third qualifying round tie. His finishes on both occasions were superb, and that’s what he’s capable of when he’s on his game. He should also be looking to make up for his woeful display at Easter Road too.
Ryan Christie notched his 11th goal of the season at Easter Road, but struggled to make a big influence overall. With Tom Rogic back amongst the goals against Partick Thistle a week ago, Christie has to stay focused in that number 10 spot.
Lennon provided supporters with a huge quadruple injury boost on Tuesday night (Daily Record). This involved the potential return of Mikey Johnston. He hasn’t played in a month, and from a fan’s perspective, it’s 50/50 as to whether he could feature. Equally, Mohamed Elyounoussi came close to scoring in France against Rennes, and should also be in the manager’s thoughts. For now, we’ll play it safe and go for Mikey to be trusted on the night.
Up top, Odsonne Edouard will be looking to do more damage to the Romanians. He, like Christie and Forrest, also netted against Petrescu’s side at Parkhead. Another fine performance will do wonders for his profile. With Vakoun Bayo suspended after his red card in France, Leigh Griffiths has been ruled out, so Eddy will almost definitely start.
Here’s our predicted XI in list form: