Predicted Celtic XI vs Livingston; Oko-Flex for Harper; Karamoko benched

By David Walton

January 15, 2021

Well for many the Celtic XI against Livingston on Saturday will be the same as what was sent out against Hibernian.

Such is the desperation of the club with regards to numbers, you can see the thought in that. And it’ll definitely need to be a very similar team if not the exact same one. That’s the repercussions of going to Dubai unfortunately. We still have 13 players missing, and that will be felt again.

However, there were some positives to be taken from the Hibernian draw on Monday night. Despite being a patched-up XI, we still should’ve beaten the Hibees. We were still the better side for long periods, and had several opportunities that should’ve been taken. Not to mention the fact we were minutes from taking the points before a late hammer blow.

Some Celtic fans will still be going into tomorrow’s game with a dread of course. Livingston have managed eight consecutive wins and have had a free week given their game against Aberdeen on Wednesday was postponed. They’ll be buzzing for this one. But I’m sorry, the day I fear Livingston coming to Parkhead is the day we should stop calling ourselves a big club!

So let’s delve into the potential starting XI, as we give our own bash on who we believe Gavin Strachan and Neil Lennon will select from the start at Parkhead:

No sweeping changes in Celtic XI for Livingston

It’s a no-brainer in goal, is it? Conor Hazard will be haunted with his part in Hibernian’s late equaliser on Monday. But truth be told, he made some fine saves to deny the likes of Kevin Nisbet and Joe Newell. He deserves to keep his place in the sticks with Ross Doohan as back-up. Celtic have also won five of the six games he’s been involved in this term (Transfermarkt).

Jeremie Frimpong is also going to command the right-back spot with Diego Laxalt on the opposite flank. Disappointingly, both men seemed to stop taking on their direct opponent against Hibs. This was what helped cut Dundee United open in our previous home game. They need to show that level of directness again tomorrow.

Meanwhile, there are still question marks over Nir Bitton’s availability. The big Israeli was suspended for Monday’s game against Jack Ross’ side. If he isn’t one who’s self-isolating then I think he’ll play. But for now, I’m going with Shane Duffy and Stephen Welsh as it would just be our luck if Bitton was out for another week.

It was pleasing to see that our most influential midfielders were available against Hibs. Having Ismaila Soro and David Turnbull available was massive for us. Expect both to play again along with Callum McGregor.

Tom Rogic didn’t impress against Hibs and neither did Mikey Johnston. However, that’s no reason to believe they should be dropped. We just don’t have the numbers at the moment to chop and change. Rogic in particular has previous in impressing against Livingston, so expect both men to play once again.

Oko-Flex deserves reward for decent Hibernian cameo; Harper benched

The only change to the starting XI for me will be the removal of Cameron Harper from the striker position. The USA youngster still has some way to go before he’s of the required standard of the Celtic first-team. Armstrong Oko-Flex, however, showed some bright touches and ball-control when he came on.

Celtic are having to rely on the likes of Armstrog Oko-Flex (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

A home match against Livingston would be the ideal opportunity for Oko-Flex to show what he’s got. We need to do something in the final third to mix things up – this is what I expect Strachan and Lennon to agree on.

From the bench, it will be the same again. A host of youth players and not much there that will strike much fear into Livi. However, expect more minutes for the exciting Karamoko Dembele. Don’t be surprised if Scott Robertson also gets game-time after being recalled from his loan at Gillingham.

Predicted XI: Conor Hazard, Jeremie Frimpong, Shane Duffy, Stephen Welsh, Diego Laxalt, Callum McGregor, Ismaila Soro, Tom Rogic, David Turnbull, Mikey Johnston, Armstrong Oko-Flex.