It looks as though the Celtic XI vs Sarajevo this Wednesday won’t be the same side that secured our first-leg lead.
Celtic host the Bosnian champions in the second leg of this first round Champions League qualification tie. It’s a game the Hoops are thoroughly expected to win comfortably. Better than that, they’ll be expected to do so whilst hopefully getting their first clean sheet of the season too.
Neil Lennon has already suffered some potential worrying blows in the run-up. Nir Bitton limped off against Rennes on Saturday, whilst the Northern Irishman has already confirmed that Mikey Johnston will miss the clash too (Daily Record).
Regardless, Celtic will still expect to see off Sarajevo after building a 3-1 lead from the first leg. And here, we have our usual stab at the starting XI for our first competitive game at Celtic Park this season.
Craig Gordon started Saturday’s friendly at home to Rennes and performed well enough. But he should still lose his place to current number one Scott Bain. The former Dundee man will be disappointed at how he lost the goal over in Bosnia, and nothing less than a clean sheet should be on his mind.
It would seem a tad off if Anthony Ralston was thrown in from the cold after being chucked out of the team for the away leg. He remains our only available right-back, but Lennon chose Kristoffer Ajer to play there last week and then praised his performance (Celtic TV). We’ll go for Ajer to be in there once again.
There’s no concerns over Christopher Jullien’s fitness after watching him stroll an hour against Rennes on Saturday. Now is the time to get him in there and playing competitively. Given Ajer could be on right-back duty again, Jozo Simunovic could get another chance to shine with a new centre-back partner.
Lennon said that Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo should be fit for Wednesday’s match after rolling his ankle in Bosnia (Daily Record). If he’s fit, he’ll play. There’s simply no alternative at the moment outside of Jonny Hayes.
Scott Brown and Callum McGregor will slot in nicely to the midfield most likely. Olivier Ntcham may now be back in training, but he has plenty of apologising to do before he gets near the team once again.
There’s been no update on the availability of Marian Shved after his initial injury a couple of weeks ago. This would’ve been an ideal game to continue blending him in. For now, however, it looks like James Forrest will continue to power on at right-mid unrivaled.
Sinclair to be picked ahead of Morgan
Down the left, Johnston’s injury means it’s a toss-up between Scott Sinclair and Lewis Morgan. The latter impressed against Sarajevo and Rennes respectively, whilst Sinclair struggled against the French outfit on Saturday. But Lennon does still like the Englishman, and Morgan could therefore have to settle for a place on the bench for now.
Ryan Christie is back and looks ready to go again. He’s the natural number 10 at the moment, whilst it’s time for Lennon to make the big decision many would like to see up front.
We gave our opinion a couple of days ago that Leigh Griffiths should start ahead of Odsonne Edouard. He’s Celtic’s sharpest weapon at the moment, and has been causing pre-season opposition defences nightmares. Edouard has nothing to prove and already opened his account for the season last week.
For Griff, however, he’ll be itching to bag his first competitive goal, and Sarajevo presents a risk-free match in which to do it. It’s therefore time to give Griffiths the competitive match his pre-season deserves.
Celtic XI vs Sarajevo:
GK – Scott Bain
RB – Kristoffer Ajer
CB – Christopher Jullien
CB – Jozo Simunovic
LB – Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo
CM – Scott Brown
CM – Callum McGregor
RM – James Forrest
CAM – Ryan Christie
LM – Scott Sinclair
ST – Leigh Griffiths