Predicted Celtic XI vs Sparta Prague: Lennon to bring Jullien back in bid to save his skin
Again the difficulty level just gets cranked higher and higher for Celtic in their bid to turn their season around – Prague away from home is next up tomorrow night.
Yes, it’s a rematch against the side that astonishingly put four past Neil Lennon’s side at the start of the month. That 4-1 scoreline was a result that all but ended our chances of qualification from our Europa League group, with three wins between now and the end of the group campaign the bare minimum needed to get through to the last-32.
This is an odd one. Given the pressure the club and manager are under after just two wins in their last eight games, this match feels like an inconvenience. Supporters just want the league back up and running so that we can start eating into Rangers’ 11-point gap at the top of the table.
But let’s be honest, no Celtic game is insignificant. Defeat to Prague will pile even more pressure on Lennon if that’s even possible. So it’s vital for him to pick the right team, as despite Sparta’s recent poor form, only the correct starting XI will get the job done.
And here, we take a stab at who Lennon could go for in this Europa League do-or-die clash:
Bain to keep his spot and Jullien to return
Scott Bain has conceded 15 goals in the eight games he’s played in since coming back into the fold ahead of Vasilis Barkas. We think Lennon will stick by him even if the right decision would be to bring the Greek stopper back in.
Lennon’s back four was totally destroyed at Parkhead, but we don’t think he’ll be making major changes to the shape. Expect a flat back four with Jeremie Frimpong and Diego Laxalt operating as overlapping full-backs.
But what about the central defensive partnership? Lennon told Celtic TV after the weekend’s 2-2 draw at Hibernian that Christopher Jullien will be considered for selection this week. We’re going to guess he throws him in alongside Norwegian talent Kristoffer Ajer in a bid to save his skin tomorrow night.
Yes, Scott Brown was woeful at Easter Road just as he’s been extremely poor in the last several weeks. But don’t expect Lennon to drop him for any big game this season – he sees something nobody else does. Expect Brown to be in there alongside Callum McGregor again.
On the right, we think Ryan Christie will keep his place with Mohamed Elyounoussi on the opposite flank. In other words – a very recognisable feel to our final third personnel.
Tom Rogic has been one of the standouts in recent weeks with four assists in two games against Aberdeen and Motherwell. He was almost anonymous against Hibs though, and it would be ideal if he could show his creative streak in the Czech Republic once again. In terms of who drops out, he should be one of the last considered.
So who plays up front then? Well, we expect Lennon to go with just the one up top despite both Leigh Griffiths and Odsonne Edouard impressing in the final stages as a pair at Easter Road. With the Celtic boss reaching crisis point regarding his tenure, we think he’ll turn to Odsonne to shoot him to Europa League redemption.
Predicted XI: Scott Bain, Jeremie Frimpong, Christopher Jullien, Kristoffer Ajer, Diego Laxalt, Scott Brown, Callum McGregor, Ryan Christie, Tom Rogic, Mohamed Elyounoussi, Odsonne Edouard.