So another easy one on Thursday then – away from home to the side sitting joint-top of Ligue 1. Great.
In all seriousness, Lille away represents an immense opportunity for this Celtic squad. An opportunity to shock not just a media that Neil Lennon has been highly critical of over the last 24 hours (BBC), but shock a support that has become disillusioned with recent performances.
Celtic have suffered a brutal last couple of weeks. Defeats to Rangers and AC Milan was followed up with more dropped points against Aberdeen. The loss to Milan leaves us needing to try and rescue something in France tomorrow night to avoid our Europa League group from getting away from us.
In order to do that, Lennon is going to have to pick the right team on the night to stifle Ligue 1’s surprise package. Here, we take a look at who we believe will make the cut:
Barkas to return and Griff to lead the line
Vasilis Barkas may have missed Sunday’s game against Aberdeen with a back injury, but we’re going to predict he’s back and in the team tomorrow night. He’ll need to produce the best display of his Celtic career yet if we’re to get anything here. Hopefully, this match is the making of him.
We’re going to predict that Lennon continues with a back four and goes for a 4-2-3-1 formation in France. As such, Jeremie Frimpong will take up his natural right-back position with Diego Laxalt still looking for his first win at the club down the left.
The centre-back partnership is self-explanatory. With Nir Bitton and Hatem Elhamed still recovering after testing positive for Covid a couple of weeks ago, they won’t be thrown in. That means a glorious chance for Shane Duffy to redeem himself alongside Kris Ajer after Sunday’s woeful mistake for Aberdeen’s second goal.
Oddly enough, this may be a game that suits Duffy down to the ground. Expect Celtic to be playing with a deeper line than they would domestically, and that should mean Duffy is more comfortable playing with everything happening in front of him.
With Scott Brown starting on the bench against Aberdeen on Sunday, we think that’s because Lennon was likely trying to keep him fresh for tomorrow’s match. Alongside Broony, expect Callum McGregor to keep his place as the pair look to anchor the midfield and provide the defensive partnership with some protection.
Ryan Christie has operated coming off the right in the past, and he’s arguably at his strongest when he’s cutting in on his left foot. Therefore, we’re going to go for him to be playing in a right-sided position, with Tom Rogic taking up his number 10 spot.
Mohamed Elyounoussi has yet to spring to life in a Celtic jersey this season, but he did net against AC Milan last Thursday and won the penalty that should’ve won us the game at Pittodrie on Sunday. He’ll start on the left side, with nobody really there to challenge him in any case.
Up top, we’re going to go for Lennon to answer the fans’ call for Leigh Griffiths to keep his place in the team. Even if the manager has stated that Odsonne Edouard should be okay to play against Lille (Daily Record), don’t be surprised if he starts on the bench after several weeks out of action.
Predicted XI: Vasilis Barkas, Jeremie Frimpong, Shane Duffy, Kristoffer Ajer, Diego Laxalt, Scott Brown, Callum McGregor, Ryan Christie, Tom Rogic, Mohamed Elyounoussi, Leigh Griffiths