The Scottish Premiership opening weekend has finally arrived, and Celtic are right at the centre of it.
It’s time for our annual flag day at Celtic Park, and this time it’s St Johnstone who are (touch wood) lambs to the slaughter. Tommy Wright’s men have been all over the place in pre-season. They failed to get out of a Betfred Cup group containing the likes of Forfar Athletic and Ross County. Meanwhile, they’ve yet to sign a new centre-forward, leaving them woefully short of options.
The same can’t be said for Neil Lennon’s Hoops. Celtic have been flying during the summer. Already, we’ve progressed past two Champions League qualifying ties, and have managed to win all four games too. Lennon has plenty of options in many areas with so many top performers over the summer.
And here, we have a go at who we think will make Lennon’s first-team for our opening game of the campaign.
Craig Gordon showed he’s still a reliable shot-stopper in the 2-0 win at Nomme Kalju on Tuesday night. But it would be a huge surprise to see him stay in goal. It’s perhaps one of the mini sub-plots to Saturday’s selection, but for safety, we’ll go with Scott Bain to retake his place.
It’s going to be an exciting day on Saturday for many reasons, but one of the main ones will be the debut of Hatem Abd Elhamed. It would be an ideal time to see him too ahead of big Champions League qualifiers around the corner.
Beside Elhamed, however, is where we have the biggest bother this weekend. It’s perhaps just as well that Saints are lacking a real goal-threat, because we’re seriously lacking defenders. Both Jozo Simunovic and Christopher Jullien are suspended for the Perth side’s visit. Expect that to mean Kristoffer Ajer and Nir Bitton get reunited at centre-back once more.
Boli Bolingoli was another to receive plenty of praise from Lennon for his performance in Estonia (Daily Record). It was certainly calmer, and Boli showed plenty of positive attributes in a better display. He’ll be looking to continue that momentum on Saturday.
Scott Brown and Callum McGregor are the natural pairing in the engine room. Brown played the full 90 in typical fashion over in Estonia, but McGregor was left at home to rest. Both men, you would expect, will be back in together on Saturday.
Rested players to return to action
James Forrest was another to be rested up, but Lennon will surely bring him back against Saints. Marian Shved is now breathing down Jimmy’s neck after a fine debut goal in Estonia. Celtic’s Player of the Year has to step it up once again this season with pressure growing for his spot in the team.
Ryan Christie, another to be rested, should resume his role as Celtic’s number 10. Down the left, Mikey Johnston made a positive return to the starting line-up vs Kalju. He seems like Lennon’s first-choice down the left for now.
Up top, Odsonne Edouard seems the likely option. Leigh Griffiths performed well against Kalju over both legs, but Edouard was likely rested on Tuesday night for this game alone. We’ll go with Eddie to start and Griff to come on from the bench.
Lennon has so many different formations and systems he can play with this group of players. And, with the choices he has at his disposal, Celtic should prove far too strong for Saints in the first weekend of Premiership action.
Below is the team in list form: