Finally, the Scottish Premiership fixtures have returned and the internationals are over until March.
The day after the internationals should really be a worldwide holiday. For many of us they can be such a chore, and even though Scotland managed back-to-back wins, not even the most patriotic among us hasn’t been missing Neil Lennon’s Celtic.
How couldn’t you? Last-32 qualification from the Europa League has been secured after four games, whilst we remain top of the league with a Betfred Cup final coming up in several weeks’ time. A Celtic side who have rattled home a stunning 23 goals and conceded only four between the October and November breaks (Soccerbase). We all can’t wait to get back watching them again.
However, on Saturday, we come up against a side who only look easy at face-value. Celtic vs Livingston seems as routine as it could possibly get for us. But this is a Livi side who have avoided defeat in three out of four games against us since being promoted in the summer of 2018.
Celtic beat Livingston 3-1 at Parkhead on Flag Day of the 2018/19 season. Since then, we haven’t managed to do it again. Back-to-back 0-0 draws at Livingston and Parkhead was then followed by a shock 2-0 loss there several weeks ago. It’s a pretty eye-opening stat that we have to improve on.
So as we get set to start off our hellish-looking 11-game festive card, here’s a look at how we feel the team will line-up:
Fraser Forster is an undoubted starter. Incredibly, he’s only managed to keep a clean sheet in under half of his appearances so far (Transfermarkt). It’s time he put that right, because he’s been a lot better than that stat deserves to look. Livi at home seems the ideal fixture to get cracking.
One of Neil’s most intriguing decisions this weekend will come at right-back. With Hatem Abd Elhamed out, it’s a straight fight between Moritz Bauer and Jeremie Frimpong. It really is up in the air for us, but we’re going to go with Frimpong to start on Saturday, with Bauer getting his chance vs Rennes next Thursday night.
At centre-back, expect no rotation, Christopher Jullien and Kristoffer Ajer are building something special. It deserves to be left alone.
Big question marks, however, most certainly hover around the left-back position. The main one is whether Boli Bolingoli is fit. Lenny will hopefully provide an update on him at his presser today. If he isn’t fit, we’ll go for Jonny Hayes to continue his run in the side since Greg Taylor played two games for Scotland over the last week.
In the centre, the ever-reliable Callum McGregor and Scott Brown make our side. There is the temptation to throw Olivier Ntcham in there, but we’re struggling to break this duo up.
One winger to keep his place and one to drop out
James Forrest is the second-most productive player so far this season. He has 11 goals and 12 assists (Transfermarkt). We can’t see him losing his spot.
Mohamed Elyououssi, on the other hand, is a different matter altogether. The Daily Record stated in a report that they believe he could be rested but will perhaps be fit for Rennes. This comes after he was sent home from the Norway camp with a foot injury.
Therefore, in his place, we’re going to say that Lewis Morgan gets a game. He’s been given much more game-time than Scott Sinclair this season, so it seems the logical choice with Mikey Johnston still not having played a game since Ibrox.
Again, Rennes is creeping up on Thursday night. We have a chance to top the group with success in that one. Therefore, Ryan Christie will miss the Livingston game in our opinion, or at least be on the bench. We’re going to say that this is a game for Tom Rogic, and here’s hoping he can use it as a building block.
No surprises about who starts up top of course. Odsonne Edouard has bagged in three of our last four league games. It’ll take a brave fan to bet against him making it four in five. Leigh Griffiths may have notched a brace against Stenhousemuir in a bounce-game, but Eddy continues to be the main man for now.
As always, here’s the team in list form: