Predicted XI: Celtic vs Nomme Kalju (H)

By David Walton

July 23, 2019

Celtic vs Nomme Kalju represents our midweek football this week, and it’s another must-win game for the Hoops.

Not much is known about the Estonian champions outside of the fact they were underdogs against Shkendija last week. Kalju overcame a 1-0 home deficit to win 2-1 in Macedonia and set up a dream clash with the Hoops in this Champions League second-round qualifier.

Celtic knocked Sarajevo out of the Champions League last week (Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

For our opponents, this will be the biggest tie in their history. Never have they faced such illustrious opponents throughout their short European ventures. Yet, the goal for Celtic remains the same.

As always, ideally, the Hoops could take a couple of goals of a lead at least over to Estonia. It’s imperative that we put in a better performance than we did in the 2-1 win over Sarajevo last week. And here, we have our stab at the starting XI for this Wednesday night.

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Celtic vs Nomme Kalju – the team

Scott Bain has struggled to get a clean sheet run going for a short while stretching back to last season. It’s now been five competitive games since he’s achieved his last shut-out. The sooner he gets his first of the campaign under his belt the better. Surely, he starts in goal this Wednesday night.

Hatem Abd Elhamed isn’t as of yet in the door at Parkhead. Considering he won’t even have trained with the squad should he arrive before the contest, it seems a safe bet to go with Kristoffer Ajer at right-back for, hopefully, one final occasion.

Kristoffer Ajer may continue his spell at right-back for now (Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Neil Lennon has already hinted that Christopher Jullien may not be fit enough for the contest (Scottish Sun). As of yet, he’s yet to update us on the Frenchman’s fitness levels. For now, the centre-back partnership could very well remain as Nir Bitton and Jozo Simunovic, with Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo the obvious left-back choice.

Lenny was particularly pleased with the energy and control of Scott Brown and Callum McGregor last week (Celtic TV). The duo complement each other so well on the pitch. It’s fair to say that, even with Olivier Ntcham back, Celtic remain at their best when Brown and McGregor are on the pitch. That likely won’t change tomorrow.

Lennon unlikely to take risks

The manager isn’t one for taking unnecessary risks in big European qualifiers. Therefore, you have to go for James Forrest down the right with Ryan Christie in the number 10 position.

Lewis Morgan impressed against Sarajevo once again last week, and his performance levels have been through the roof since returning. Lennon will need to mull over whether to play him over Scott Sinclair yet again with Mikey Johnston likely to be missing. But at the end of the day, Morgan deserves to keep his place, and we’re going to predict he does.

Lewis Morgan deserves to keep his spot (Vagelis Georgariou/Action Plus via Getty Images)

Odsonne Edouard helped set Celtic up for success against Sarajevo two weeks ago in the first leg with his strike in Bosnia. We’re going to say he gets the go-ahead by Lennon once more to try and do similar this week against Kalju.

It’s a must-win game, and a game that must be won well too. Lennon won’t be leaving any stone unturned in his quest for Champions League qualification, and his team will surely reflect that. Below is our predicted XI in list form:

GK – Scott Bain

RB – Kristoffer Ajer

CB – Jozo Simunovic

CB – Nir Bitton

LB – Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo

CM – Scott Brown

CM – Callum McGregor

RM – James Forrest

CAM – Ryan Christie

LM – Lewis Morgan

ST – Odsonne Edouard