Predicted Celtic XI vs Sarajevo: Edouard back, 3-5-2 stays despite criticism

By David Walton

September 30, 2020

Celtic boss Neil Lennon has had to take a bit of stick from former player Kris Commons over his use of the 3-5-2 system this week.

The Daily Mail columnist, who Lennon initially signed for the club back in 2011, claimed that playing Ryan Christie up with Odsonne Edouard doesn’t work. He also accused it as a way of trying to shoehorn Scott Brown, Callum McGregor, and Olivier Ntcham into the team also.

Ryan Christie celebrates Celtic’s second goal vs Hamilton (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Speaking in his column yesterday (Daily Mail 28/09, print edition, The Verdict, back page), Commons said: “This experiment with playing Ryan Christie up front is doing no one any favours. The system is basically a way of trying to fit Scott Brown, Callum McGregor, Olivier Ntcham and Christie into the same team. But it doesn’t work.”

But we predict that Lennon isn’t going to listen to that one bit, and that will be reflected in his starting XI in Sarajevo for tomorrow night’s crucial Europa League playoff shootout. Here, we provide our predictions on who will start:

A team good enough to take Sarajevo by storm

Vasilis Barkas will remain in goal as Celtic look to continue to build up some momentum for him. A clean sheet on Sunday will have pleased him, but another in a European play-off tie? Even better.

Despite Commons’ 3-5-2 complaints, we’re going to predict it stays once again. Lennon didn’t show any problem in playing three at the back in Riga, and we think he’ll keep it going in Bosnia. That means Shane Duffy, Nir Bitton, and Kris Ajer will all be in the starting XI. Chris Jullien will be back on the bench after reportedly returning to full training yesterday (Scottish Sun).

Jeremie Frimpong is arguably the first name on the team-sheet at the moment. Starring displays against Riga and Hibernian earn him his spot in Bosnia.

The left side, however, is providing Celtic with something of a problem as Greg Taylor struggles to really make it his own. For now, however, he’ll keep his place.

Mohamed Elyounoussi celebrates scoring for Celtic / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Scott Brown and Callum McGregor will once again anchor the midfield, but there’ll be no place for the under-performing Olivier Ntcham. Instead, Mohamed Elyounoussi will play just ahead of them in a number 10 role. After two goals in two games, Moi will be buzzing with confidence – hopefully that shows in Sarajevo.

And sorry Kris, but Ryan Christie will again play up top but just off Odsonne Edouard, who didn’t start against Hibs on Sunday. Expect Christie to roam a lot more than he would if he was a lone-striker however, At times it may look as though we’re only playing with one up top, but with Moi taking the more advanced midfield slot, Christie is likely to get the nod ahead of Patryk Klimala and Leigh Griffiths respectively.

Predicted XI: Vasilis Barkas, Nir Bitton, Shane Duffy, Kristoffer Ajer, Jeremie Frimpong, Scott Brown, Callum McGregor, Greg Taylor, Mohamed Elyounoussi, Ryan Christie, Odsonne Edouard.